Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of South, Southeastern, and Central Asia

New Zealand: U.S. Security Cooperation and the U.S. Rebalancing to Asia Strategy*

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of South, Southeastern, and Central Asia

New Zealand: U.S. Security Cooperation and the U.S. Rebalancing to Asia Strategy*

Article excerpt



The return of security cooperation between the United States and New Zealand to a high level has forged a new security partnership between the two countries. The two nations, which fought together in many of America's wars and established the Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) alliance in 1951, are once again close security partners in the Asia Pacific and beyond. New Zealand's nuclear policies in the mid-1980s that prohibited nuclear- armed or nuclear-powered ships from entering New Zealand ports led the United States to restrict bilateral defense cooperation with New Zealand. For many years this difference largely defined the relationship between the two nations.

Recent developments, while not restoring the formal alliance relationship, have greatly bolstered practical aspects of the two nation's bilateral defense and security cooperation as well as reaffirmed an overall close United States bilateral relationship with New Zealand. The extent to which the nuclear issue had been put into the past was demonstrated when President Obama invited Prime Minister John Key to attend the Nuclear Summit in April 2010 and stated that New Zealand had -well and truly earned a place at the table."1 New Zealand was the only non-nuclear state invited to the conference.

Several organizations and groups, some involving Members of Congress, help promote bilateral ties between the United States and New Zealand, including the United States-New Zealand Council in Washington, DC, and its counterpart, the New Zealand-United States Council in Wellington; the Friends of New Zealand Congressional Caucus and its New Zealand parliamentary counterpart; and the more recent Pacific Partnership Forum. The U.S.-N.Z. Council was established in 1986 to promote cooperation between the two countries and works with government agencies and business groups to this end. The bipartisan Friends of New Zealand Congressional Caucus was launched by former Representatives Jim Kolbe, Ellen Tauscher, and 52 other Members in February 2005. The caucus has included over 60 Members of Congress. Representative Kevin Brady has since replaced Kolbe as the Republican co-chair of the caucus. The Democrat co-chair, Representative Rick Larsen, replaced Ellen Tauscher when she left the House. The first Partnership Forum was held in April 2006. The next Partnership Forum meeting is scheduled for May 2013.

The Wellington Declaration of 2010 was a key turning point in United States-New Zealand relations. It built on ongoing improvements in the relationship to enable a reorientation of the bilateral relationship that has put aside past differences to focus on the present and future. The degree to which the Wellington Declaration was able to move the relationship forward is attested to by the 2012 Washington Declaration on Defense Cooperation, which consolidated the developing relationship and opened the way for further enhanced strategic dialogue and defense cooperation. This positive momentum in the relationship has been maintained by subsequent developments such as then U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's September 2012 visit to New Zealand where he lifted a ban on New Zealand naval ship visits. New Zealand, like many countries in its region, has both benefited economically by the rise of China while at the same time found itself in a period of geopolitical uncertainty that has resulted from China's rise. Continuing to develop bilateral security ties with New Zealand within this geopolitical context will likely require continued attention by the United States.

Expanding U.S.-NZ Security Cooperation

New Zealand's military commitment to Afghanistan did much to change U.S. perceptions of New Zealand. New Zealand's commitment of regular troops and other assistance in support of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan, as well as the commitment of Special Forces, demonstrated New Zealand's value not only in political or diplomatic terms but also as a military partner in the field. …

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