Brownlee: NZ and Security in the Asia-Pacific Century

Speech – New Zealand Government

First, let me show you New Zealand’s view of the World. This hemispheric view of the world is centred on Wellington, our capital city. Because we are so isolated, we are a maritime nation through necessity. Our Exclusive Economic Zone is the fourth …Hon Gerry Brownlee

Minister of Defence
28 September 2015 Speech
New Zealand and Security in the Asia-Pacific Century

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

May I begin by thanking the People’s Liberation Army for giving me the opportunity to speak at this historic university.

In particular, I would like to thank Lieutenant General Zhang Shibo, the President of the National Defense University, for hosting my delegation today.

It was a pleasure to have welcomed you to New Zealand last year.

This is my first visit to China as Minister of Defence.

I have visited China four times, and I feel more welcome every time I return.

I would like to use this opportunity today to set out both New Zealand’s global and regional security priorities, but also how we view the Asia-Pacific as a whole.

First, let me show you New Zealand’s view of the World.

This hemispheric view of the world is centred on Wellington, our capital city.

Because we are so isolated, we are a maritime nation through necessity.

Our Exclusive Economic Zone is the fourth largest in the world.

With this large maritime domain also comes significant responsibility.

The New Zealand Defence Force must cover a search and rescue zone that stretches from North of the Equator, all the way to the South Pole, halfway to Australia, and halfway to South America.

This equates to 11 per cent of the planet.

99 per cent of New Zealand’s goods trade is by sea, linked to markets far from our shores.

We place great importance on both freedom of navigation and maintaining open trading routes.

These are not just rhetorical statements.

They are real and critical for New Zealand.

New Zealand has four national security interests, which were first set out in the 2010 Defence White Paper.

These interests were confirmed again in the 2014 Defence Assessment, and consist of:

Promoting a safe, secure and resilient New Zealand;

Sustaining a network of strong international relationships;

Preserving a rules-based international order; and

Maintaining access to international markets via secure sea, air and electronic lines of communication.

We also see significant security challenges within our region that accompany these interests.

Exclusive Economic Zone

Natural resources within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone are under increased pressure.

Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and illegal resource extraction are increasing within New Zealand’s immediate maritime area.

There is rising interest in the Southern Oceans and in Antarctica.

We are already seeing increased illegal activity by poachers, and there is potential for rising strategic competition between states.

New Zealand currently has a claim to the Ross Dependency in Antarctica.

We undertake scientific and research activity there in the summer months, with logistical support from the United States and the New Zealand Defence Force.

Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

Both at home and in the South West Pacific, we see increasing demands for disaster response and recovery.

Alongside our close partner Australia, New Zealand is often the first responder on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the South West Pacific.

A recent example of this is the combined effort that followed Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu earlier this year.

I know China is no stranger to natural disasters and their grave consequences.

New Zealand shared your heartbreak for the many victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

I have experienced these circumstances first hand as Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, overseeing the ongoing rebuild of our second biggest city, Christchurch, following a series of devastating quakes which began in 2010.

Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief is a key area where New Zealand wishes to seek further cooperation with China and the People’s Liberation Army.

South Pacific

New Zealand maintains a direct interest in security and prosperity in the South Pacific.

We do not expect that the South Pacific will face an external military threat.

However, a breakdown in law and order or state failure resulting in instability or conflict would negatively impact New Zealand’s interests in the region.

The rising political, security, and economic influence of non-state actors in the region is a cause for concern.

South Pacific nations face continuing economic, environmental, and governance challenges; accompanied by relatively low security sector capacity.

This fragility is likely to remain a key issue in the near and medium term.

The New Zealand Defence Force has been called upon for stability and security operations to restore law and order in the Pacific in the past and stands ready to do so if needed in the future.

We would seek to work alongside other partners in a regional response, as we did in Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.

We see real value in working together with partners such as China to help build capacity and resilience in South Pacific communities.

Addressing the high economic and social costs of transnational crime and illegal and unregulated fishing is one such area where we can do more together.

I am very pleased that China was able to send a contingent of engineers to participate for the first time in the annual Exercise Tropic Twilight, which is currently underway in the Cook Islands.

This multinational exercise also includes forces from New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Through our combined efforts, engineers and other supporting staff from all nations constructed a number of fuel tanks in the Cook Islands.

This will help to enable the Cook Islands to maintain their own exclusive economic zone and secure their own sustainable future.

It also has the additional effect of getting our militaries used to working together.

I would like to add that New Zealand and China are also undertaking a joint aid project in the Cook Islands.

International Security Challenges

New Zealand is increasingly affected by events and tensions beyond our immediate region.

As a consequence of our global interests, we have an important stake in upholding a rules-based international order.

Threats to this order cut across borders.

Cyberspace has brought New Zealand economically and socially closer to the world, but this connectivity also carries increased risks.

Cyber threats are growing markedly, both in quantity and variety.

They can emanate from anywhere and target any of us.

Countries must recognise their shared interests in cyberspace, and respond effectively to malicious activity.

Terrorism is an issue that reaches across the globe and affects many nations, including China.

We share the international community’s outrage at Daesh’s brutal actions.

New Zealand is not immune to terrorism – our security agencies must monitor a sizeable number of supporters of Daesh within New Zealand, and some have travelled to fight in Syria.

The New Zealand Government has responded to this threat.

We are contributing humanitarian assistance, and recently accepted an intake of 750 Syrian refugees displaced by the fighting.

Significantly, the New Zealand Defence Force is working in partnership with the Australian Defence Force to support a military training mission in Iraq.

To date 1600 Iraqi Armed Forces personnel have passed through our training programme.

We are proud of the contribution our troops are making towards a more secure Iraq.

In addition to terrorism and cyber threats, the rules based international order is coming under increased pressure from strategic rivalry.

We have observed greater willingness of countries to get involved in conflicts outside of the UN system and international law.

While there is low risk of a major interstate conflict, this risk has been rising over the last five years.

A rules based system is particularly important for ensuring continued freedom of navigation and collective maritime security.

New Zealand and Trade

As I’ve said, New Zealand is a maritime nation.

And like China we rely heavily on free access to major shipping routes and sea lanes of communication for our own economic prosperity.

Our national security interests stretch as far as our trade routes do, from those to our principal and closest trading partner Australia, to those as far afield as Europe, here in North Asia, and to the Americas.

Because New Zealand’s interests in the maritime domain are truly global, our contribution to preserving these interests must also extend globally.

For example, in the Gulf of Aden, New Zealand has been contributing to the fight against piracy off the Horn of Africa.

So too has China.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy has made a significant contribution to counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden through its convoy escort operations.

New Zealand’s global maritime trade reflects increasing economic integration and connectivity.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in North Asia and the wider Asia-Pacific.

North Asia

New Zealand is mindful that our economic future is increasingly tied to the Asia-Pacific.

We take every opportunity to pursue trade opportunities in the region, helping to build mutual prosperity.

We have a historically significant free trade agreement with China, which I will cover in more detail shortly, and in March we signed a free trade agreement with the Republic of Korea.

Regional economic integration is a top priority for New Zealand.

We actively support the Asia Pacific Economic Community vision of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.

We recognise that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which China is part of, is a key foundation of this vision.

The successful conclusion of a complete, high quality Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is currently the highest trade priority for New Zealand.

Our commitment to increased economic integration with North Asia must be matched by efforts to build stronger security ties to the region, both bilaterally and multilaterally.

New Zealand has made considerable progress in our defence relationships with China, Korea and Japan.

While North Asia has experienced a prolonged period of substantial economic growth, we cannot lose sight of the number of tensions in the region which have the potential to undo much of this work.

The continuing tension on the Korean Peninsula, for example, is a cause for concern.

Only a month ago, two South Korean soldiers were injured as a result of a North Korean land mine explosion.

Subsequent exchanges of fire across the border once again illustrated the delicate balance between tension and war on the Peninsula.

New Zealand has consistently condemned North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes.

We support the Six Party Talks process, which China has been closely involved in, and encourage North Korea to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearisation and return to the talks.

We see our relationship with China as a crucial avenue for helping to maintain New Zealand’s interests in a stable and prosperous Asia-Pacific, and for addressing some of the region’s security challenges.

New Zealand – China Relationship

New Zealand and China have a very close relationship.

Indeed, China is an important strategic partner for New Zealand.

New Zealand has consistently welcomed the rise of a prosperous, peaceful China on the world stage.

We have a political and economic relationship based on four firsts.

We were the first western country to conclude a bilateral agreement with China on its succession to the World Trade Organisation;

The first developed country to recognise China’s status as a market economy;

The first developed country to enter into free trade agreement negotiations;

And the first to sign a high quality comprehensive balanced free trade agreement with China.

We are proud of these firsts.

The relationship has recently reached new heights.

The state visit to New Zealand by President Xi Jinping in November 2014 was the first visit by a Chinese President since 2003.

The elevation of the relationship to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was a significant milestone for the bilateral relationship.

The economic relationship between New Zealand and China is a huge success story.

China is our second largest trading partner for goods and services and is our largest export market for dairy and forestry products.

China is our number one source of imports, and New Zealanders appreciate access to a range of Chinese products.

This goes both ways.

New Zealand continues to supply high quality products to China.

Between 2008 and 2014 goods exports from New Zealand to China quadrupled in value from $2.5 billion to $10 billion.

The initial goal set by leaders of NZ$20 billion in two-way trade by 2015 was surpassed in May 2014.

In March 2014, Prime Minister Key and President Xi Jinping set a new ambitious goal to reach $30 billion by 2020.

This momentum has also been matched by solid growth in two-way investment.

Our cultural and people-to-people links are also going from strength to strength.

China is our largest source of overseas students, second largest source of tourists, and the Chinese diaspora in New Zealand is growing, vibrant, and well integrated into New Zealand society.

More recently, New Zealand welcomed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as an important initiative supporting infrastructure investment and economic development in the Asia region.

We look forward to working closely with China and other member countries in the coming months as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank comes into operation.

New Zealand – China Defence Relationship

Our security relationship has built up significant positive momentum.

Despite the disparities between our security situations, and the respective size of our defence forces, we have developed a constructive defence relationship based on respect and openness.

Our interactions with the People’s Liberation Army allow for real issues to be discussed in a meaningful way.

We are grateful for these opportunities.

Our Five Year Engagement Plan with the People’s Liberation Army is the first agreed between China and a Western military, demonstrating the unique nature of our relationship.

This builds on our tradition of ‘firsts’ in the political and economic relationship.

In addition to Exercise Tropic Twilight, we also welcome China’s participation in the annual Phoenix Spirit and Cooperation Spirit series of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises.

The 2014 edition of the exercise considered lessons learned from the MH370 search operation.

The People’s Liberation Army made a significant contribution to the MH370 search off the Australian coast, in partnership with many nations, including New Zealand.

Creating opportunity for our junior soldiers to work together in real, practical situations is another priority for New Zealand.

This will boost interoperability, mutual understanding and enable us to share perspectives on the world.

The soldiers of today will be the generals of tomorrow – just as those in this fine institution will be the People’s Liberation Army’s thought leaders of the future.

In peacekeeping, New Zealand is very grateful for the force protection provided by People’s Liberation Army soldiers working under the United Nations banner in South Sudan, side-by-side with our troops.

China is now one of the world’s biggest contributors of peacekeepers to United Nations missions, and we commend you for your commitment to maintaining international peace and security through these means.

The People’s Liberation Army has also demonstrated its capacity as a responsible world actor through disaster relief efforts in Nepal, the Maldives and the Philippines, and in the search for MH370.

Positive Security Factors in the Asia Pacific

While I have covered today many of the challenges to regional and global security, I believe that overall the positive factors outweigh the negatives.

Our region is more economically integrated that ever.

Even in the global financial crisis, countries chose to stimulate their economies without returning to economic protectionism.

In fact, free trade has expanded since the downturn.

As I said earlier, free trade pacts, including the Trans Pacific Partnership, are crucial guarantees of economic prosperity, increased security and peace through interdependence.

New Zealand has welcomed the US rebalance into the Asia-Pacific.

We have benefited from this move, and consider the rebalance a positive factor for regional security.

We do not see our defence relationships with the United States and China as mutually exclusive.

We believe that the United States and China want the same thing for the Asia-Pacific – peace and prosperity.

This is New Zealand’s desire as well, and we will work with all parties to achieve this outcome.

To do this, it is crucial to maintain inclusive dialogue mechanisms, ensuring that all nations are well integrated into a rules-based international order.

This will allow us to address some of the region’s most pressing collective challenges, such as the potential for strategic rivalry around territorial disputes.

South China Sea

Economic interdependence, and our mutual stake in maritime trade, provides clear incentives to manage maritime and territorial disputes peacefully.

This must be matched with equal measures to build an open and inclusive regional order where security, freedom of navigation, and overflight, and open trade routes are managed in accordance with international laws and norms.

The South China Sea has been a prominent issue in regional security discussions this year.

It is of particular importance to New Zealand, reliant as we are on seaborne trade and the security and freedom of navigation for our economic prosperity and well-being.

Over half of New Zealand’s maritime trade passes through the South China Sea.

While we take no position on the various claims in the South China Sea, New Zealand opposes actions that undermine peace and erode trust.

We are concerned that developments have outstripped regional efforts to manage tensions.

We call on all claimant states to take steps to reduce tensions.

We want to see swift progress in fully implementing the Declaration of Conduct and rapid conclusion of the Code of Conduct negotiations to build a better framework for managing activity in the area.

The role of international law and international institutions is important in finding long-terms solutions to these disputes.

New Zealand supports the right of states to access international dispute settlement mechanisms as well as solving disputes through bilateral negotiations.

It is important that we respect the outcome of such processes.

I addressed this issue when I spoke to the Shangri-La Dialogue in May.

All big countries are made much bigger, in every sense of the word, by recognising their strengths and confidently sharing and defusing concerns of smaller countries.

By recognising these concerns and seeking dialogue in the settlement of issues, it is the mark of a big country.

As we would say in New Zealand, it confers what in the indigenous Māori language we call ‘mana,’ or respect, for other nations.

Promoting Conflict Resolution and Prevention

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to a proposal I put to the Shangri-La Dialogue in May.

We encourage China, and all members of the Asia-Pacific community, to work towards the outcomes represented by the following four pillars to promote active conflict prevention and resolution.

The first pillar is increasing our integration with multilateral institutions and support of dialogue and preventive diplomacy. This is what motivated New Zealand to seek our current non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The second pillar is building active measures of conflict prevention and resolution. New Zealand supports efforts to develop consensus-based codes of conduct at sea and in the air to prevent the accidents and miscalculations that can so easily lead to wider conflict.

The third pillar is to cooperate to deliver practical security benefits to the region and build familiarity between our militaries. As I have detailed previously, the Asia Pacific is host to a range of security challenges that affect all of us and can be the motivation for our militaries to work closely.

The final pillar that will support active conflict resolution and prevention is increasing people-to-people links at all levels across the region.

All of these pillars – multilateral integration, confidence building measures, military cooperation and people-to-people links – rest on deep and solid foundations of respect for the rule of law and international norms.

New Zealand’s approach to security, and particularly maritime security, is anchored in strong support for international laws of the sea.

The pillars I have just outlined support an integrated and prosperous region where conflict and disputes are actively presented and resolved.


The New Zealand and China relationship is strong, and we are here today as true strategic partners.

While we don’t always agree, we have much more common ground than disagreements.

Despite our significant geographical distance apart, I believe that the ocean between the two countries should be viewed as a bridge, rather than a barrier.

Once again, I would like to thank my generous hosts here today, the People’s Liberation Army.

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