New Challenges In an Increasingly Complex Environment:
In a Defence policy document released today, the New Zealand Defence Ministry claims the nation is facing “a more challenging strategic environment than for decades, with increasing threats to our security. The effectiveness and stability of the post-war liberal rules-based international system are being undermined. Both the use, and threat of use, of military power are increasingly shaping states’ interactions. These challenges are also faced by Australia, the Pacific, and other states that share our interests and values.”
Focusing on 4 overall points, the document illustrates New Zealand’s concern with changes in the international system, the disregard of the international rules-based order with regard to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, growing strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific, and China’s consistent effort to “grow its political, economic, and security influence in the Pacific at the expense of more traditional partners such as New Zealand and Australia.”
Despite this, in the entire 36-page, 83-subject document, China is mentioned a mere 3 times. The segment concerns Beijing’s increasingly assertive role in the Indo-Pacific and its continuous breaches of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the South and East China Seas.
A New Focus on Strategic Partnerships:
Additionally, the policy document emphasises New Zealand’s need to strengthen its strategic partnerships with Australia, the US, Canada and the UK through its Five Eyes agreement as well as the AUKUS and Indo-Pacific Quad arrangement between the US, India, Japan and Australia.
New Zealand’s vacillating stance on China could be the result of the nation’s booming free trade agreement with Beijing, which totals more than 37.71 Billion USD annually.
Furthermore, the document elucidates the growing threat of state and non-state competition for natural resources, military technological advancements, violent extremism and terrorist threats as well as a spike in transnational organised crime.
In a statement, Defence Minister Andrew Little referred to the Defence Force’s lack of investment in infrastructure alongside struggles to retain trained staff. “The Defence Force will be called upon more often, and personnel must be equipped and trained for a range of operations from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to armed conflict.”
Particularly, New Zealand and its Pacific neighbours have become scenes to a variety of climate change-related natural disasters such as major flooding events, tropical storms and the contamination of freshwater supplies due to rising sea levels.