Wed, Dec 22, 2010 - Page 1 News List

New Zealand defense officials warned US on PLA’s actions in Pacific: cables

AFP, WELLINGTON

New Zealand defense officials warned Washington that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was fueling political instability in the Pacific, reports citing leaked diplomatic cables said yesterday.

New Zealand raised concerns that the PLA was outspending it on aid to defense forces in the region, particularly Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, the cables released by the WikiLeaks Web site said.

In a 2008 cable, US diplomats said New Zealand was worried Pacific nations “are increasingly turning away from Australia and New Zealand to seek ties with Taiwan, China, Cuba and others,” the Dominion Post newspaper reported.

Another briefing from 2006 quoted New Zealand Defense Ministry Deputy Secretary Chris Seed as saying “PLA activities in the Pacific Islands pose real security problems for New Zealand,” the NZ Herald newspaper reported.

New Zealand, along with Australia, has traditionally seen the South Pacific as its sphere of influence, but the cables show disquiet at China’s activities as Beijing vied with Taiwan for diplomatic influence in the region.

One US cable, dated September 2006, said New Zealand’s foreign affairs department complained that China spoke about responsible development in the region, but “practices the opposite when it comes ... to competing with Taiwan.”

China’s “rapacious quest” for natural resources undermined good governance and sustainable development in Pacific nations, another cable from the same year quotes the foreign affairs department as saying.

Other cables released by WikiLeaks earlier this month showed the US and New Zealand last year ended a near 25-year break in intelligence collaboration sparked by Wellington’s anti-nuclear stance, but kept the news secret.

The New Zealand government has a policy of not commenting on WikiLeaks releases.

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