Goff China Speech: NZ’s Strategic Situation

Published: Mon 13 Nov 2006 03:14 PM
Phil Goff Speech: New Zealand’s Strategic Situation and Defence Policy Address to Chinese National Defence University, Beijing
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.
I am delighted to be in China for the first time in my capacity as Minister of Defence and Minister of Disarmament. I am especially pleased to have this opportunity to visit the distinguished National Defence University.
New Zealand has good links with the National Defence University. Staff exchanges in both directions provide insights, build understanding and establish enduring personal relationships.
The New Zealand Defence Force values these links and looks forward to maintaining them in future.
Today I would like to talk about New Zealand’s strategic situation and how we see the global and regional security environment. I will also refer to developments in our political, security and military relationship with China.
I look forward to some discussion at the end of my presentation – I am interested to learn what issues are on your minds.
New Zealand’s Strategic Situation
New Zealand does not pose a threat to any other nation. Our influence comes not from our ability to impose our will on other countries, but from working with others and persuading them of the merits of our arguments.
We may be situated far from the population centres of the world, but we have never been isolationist or reluctant to play our part in contributing to security. Indeed, New Zealand is proud of the role it has played historically. We believe our contribution to security has been disproportionate to our size.
We are a sovereign country, closely connected to others, but voicing an independent view. We reflect our own view of the world.
We are a liberal democracy. We follow and promote a commitment to democratic procedures, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
We promote the role of multilateral and regional institutions and processes.
Bodies like the United Nations and International Court of Justice contribute to and manage the rules-based system that we believe should govern conduct between nations.
At the regional level, processes like APEC and the newly-established East Asia Summit provide a framework for dialogue about issues and opportunities. ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Pacific Islands Forum are other important elements in regional architecture.
New Zealand seeks to play a proactive part within international and regional frameworks in pursuit of security, development, more open trade arrangements and community-building.
We commit human and financial resources to being a good international citizen. Our peace-keeping deployments, development assistance and disarmament initiatives are examples of that commitment.
Disarmament and non-proliferation have long been key elements of New Zealand's international policy agenda which we have looked to further through the multilateral system.
International Security Environment
The current international security environment is complex and fluid.
New Zealand does not face a conventional military threat. Our national interests are today more likely to be threatened by terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, trans-national crime, natural disasters, a global pandemic, and the consequences of state fragility in the region and beyond.
These challenges call for collective action, nimble responses and genuine commitment.
The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 were a watershed in demonstrating both the willingness and ability of an international terrorist group to engage in mass murder to promote their cause. It indicated that groups like Al Qaeda have no bottom line – a frightening proposition should they gain access to weapons of mass destruction.
Because of the need to confront terrorism directly New Zealand has been a strong supporter of taking action against those who engage in terrorist acts to achieve their objectives. We have contributed air and naval support in the Gulf. Our special forces have completed three rotations in Afghanistan.
We currently have around 120 defence force personnel in Afghanistan operating a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan. We also have police there providing training and NZAid staff managing our development assistance.
Counter-terrorism has been pursued as a whole of government exercise. We contribute through the sharing of intelligence. We have strengthened legislation cracking down on terrorist organisations and we have funded and strengthened border control and transport security.
We have worked multilaterally, regionally and bilaterally to enhance counter-terrorist cooperation. We also believe that concerted and ongoing efforts are needed to address the conditions that foster terrorism.
New Zealand has focused on promoting stability and security in our immediate neighbourhood of the Pacific.
Issues of internal conflict, weapons proliferation, the spread of infectious diseases, illegal resource extraction, transnational crime - including people smuggling, drugs trafficking, and money laundering pose a real threat that transcends borders.
There remains a sense of vulnerability, particularly in Melanesia, to a range of cumulative pressures, including population growth, governance failures, fragile economies and communal tensions.
Response to these issues requires more than simply the contribution of peace-keeping and security forces. External defence force and police can help stabilise a volatile situation which is often an essential first step.
But peace-building and the establishment of sustainable self-governance is a much longer term and complex process. It requires establishing the institutions of governance, providing sustainable livelihoods and development and establishing a culture of acceptance and expectation of proper exercise of authority, peaceful resolution of conflict and the ability to change governments constitutionally.
It is against this background that we have sought to work closely not only with the island countries themselves, but also with international partners including China. We need to ensure that our respective efforts underpin good governance and peace-building efforts.
Peacekeeping requires, both regionally and internationally, a new balance between what UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calls hard and soft responses. And it requires leadership from those with the expertise and capacity to exert influence or manage change.
The Bougainville peace process in Papua New Guinea provided clear evidence of the importance of the careful application of external influence working with local factions in conflict resolution.
More recently, in the Solomon Islands our servicemen and women have played an important part in pulling that country back from the brink of civil war and anarchy.
The Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands, is an example of regional cooperation and measured intervention in fragile states.
We look to work with others to build and support democratic, governed states that can respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.
And yet, as we have seen recently, the progress made in Solomon Islands has been tentative and remains fragile. This was a focal point for discussion among the leaders of Pacific Island countries, Australia and New Zealand at their annual Forum meeting last month.
Our commitment of a battalion-sized force from 1999 to 2002 to East Timor was the most substantial military deployment by New Zealand for some time. Our and the international effort to bring peace and self-determination to East Timor was massive.
Yet just a few years after independence, defence forces from Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia and police from Portugal, on the invitation of the Timor-Leste Government, have again had to intervene to prevent the widespread breakdown of law and order and stability.
New Zealand is working with regional partners through its military and police presence, and a carefully focussed ODA programme, once more to try to achieve a durable peace and effective political system. Helping to change the political culture to realise this is the greater challenge.
Beyond the Pacific, we have a longstanding defence relationship with Singapore and Malaysia through the Five Power Defence Arrangements.
New Zealand is active in general security dialogues that take place in the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Shangri-La Dialogue. We hope that they can contribute to peace and security through confidence building, preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution. APEC, and the new East Asia Summit are other paths through which we pursue these objectives.
New Zealand provides personnel to the UN Command in Korea. We continue to have concerns about the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea and the threat of nuclearisation of the region.
North Korea’s recent nuclear weapons test has done nothing to contribute to the security of North Korea. It has further isolated Pyongyang and posed a challenge to its North-east Asian neighbours and to the international effort to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
We are pleased that China has convinced North Korea to return to the Six Party Talks process, but we recognise it will be very difficult to make rapid progress. Pyongyang must now demonstrate true commitment to the rapid implementation of the 19 September 2005 agreed principles. Its recent behaviour has made the international community less patient and any signs of recalcitrance will likely elicit a firm response. We will continue to do what we can to support the Six Party Talks process.
Cross-straits tensions between Taiwan and the mainland remain a potential catalyst for conflict if Taiwan moves to declare its independence from China. New Zealand has always pressed Taiwan not to take unnecessarily provocative actions. Any move towards formal independence would be an act of folly.
We have been encouraged by China’s efforts to seek peaceful reconciliation, including through moves to improve the economic and people-to-people relationship between the mainland and Taiwan. We encourage China to continue to initiate and develop positive policies that allow growth in relations across the straits.
The tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and terrorism, combined with the possession by each country of nuclear weapons, has posed a threat in South Asia.
Further afield, the Middle East's potent mix of religion, ethnic rivalry, economic inequalities, and globally vital energy resources is ensuring the region remains pivotal for international security.
Iraq's prospects remain uncertain. Regime change, the removal of Saddam Hussein, was the easy task. As New Zealand feared, it has proven much harder to establish stability and a sustainable governance arrangement under which Iraq's diverse component groups could live together. Today, the country is mired by sectarian conflict, insurgency, and criminal elements.
We seem as far away as ever from the objective of a stable and representative Iraqi government which can draw Sunni, Shia and Kurds into an accepted political process.
The situation in Iraq, the recent conflict in Lebanon, and the ongoing failure to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians all provide an environment conducive to continuing recruitment into and support for Islamic terrorism.
These many challenges make it all the more important that we as member of the international community must work together to try to resolve them .
China and New Zealand
China and New Zealand will next year celebrate 35 years of diplomatic relations. Over those years, our relationship has come a very long way.
The relationship has been driven forward with the strong support of our leaders. New Zealand has been delighted to host President Hu Jintao, Chairman Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao on visits over the past three years. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark has visited China several times in recent years.
In Shanghai last week, in my capacity as Minister of Trade, I was highlighting the strength of our trading relationship, now worth over $6 billion per year.
I noted that New Zealand had achieved three important firsts in its relationship with China.
We were the first country to agree to China’s accession to the WTO by concluding the bilateral negotiations part of that process.
We were the first developed country to recognise China as a market economy.
And we were the first developed country to commence Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with China.
We are now hoping that we will achieve a fourth first before long: the conclusion of the first FTA between China and a developed country.
China – New Zealand defence relationship
The defence relationship is also gaining in strength. Our defence links are now an integral part of the broader relationship.
A high level of visits in each direction reflects the growth in our engagement on defence and security matters. In just the past two months, for example, we have had a visit to New Zealand by General Xu Caihou and the New Zealand’s Chief of Defence Force has been in China.
General Xu proposed consolidating our defence engagement further through military to military talks, further high level visits, more academic exchanges at a variety of levels, and enhanced cooperation in areas of mutual interest such as counter-terrorism and peacekeeping.
I welcomed General Xu’s practical and forward-looking suggestions. New Zealand will be working with China to realise them over the coming period.
We are open to consider other practical initiatives too. For our part, we would like to explore ways to cooperate more closely in niche areas like logistics management, demining and peacekeeping.
Underpinning senior-level engagement, there has been regular contact between the PLA and the New Zealand Defence Force. Naval ship visits and academic exchanges, including with NDU, are also welcome features of our relationship. New Zealand recognises the important role that China is playing in regional and international security. Your leadership in the Six Party Talks with North Korea; important contributions to the global campaign against terrorism; and participation in the ASEAN Regional Forum are examples of the positive contributions China makes.
Another is China’s strong peacekeeping record. As the largest contributor of the five permanent Security Council members, with well over 1600 personnel currently deployed to UN missions around the world, China is making a difference.
I know that this peacekeeping role brings with it a cost. New Zealanders were saddened by the death of a Chinese office in the UN observation post incident in Lebanon in July. We are aware that other Chinese personnel have been lost in peacekeeping missions. As for the future, I’m confident that New Zealand will continue to build our cordial and friendly defence links with China.
New Zealand’s newly appointed Chief Executive of the Ministry of Defence (the Executive Vice Minister in China) is our former Ambassador to China and a fluent mandarin speaker, John McKinnon. That appointment will certainly ensure a higher level understanding of China and its links with our country.
Thank you once again to the National Defence University for the opportunity to speak today. I look forward to your questions.

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