New Zealand is not part of a new security pact between Australia, the UK and the US, in what experts say is an illustration of the distance between the country and its traditional allies.
On Wednesday, Australia, the UK and the US announced a security partnership, AUKUS, aimed at confronting China, which is to include helping Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
New Zealand and Canada were notably absent.
New Zealand’s longstanding nuclear-free policy also means that Australian submarines developed under the deal are banned from New Zealand waters.
“New Zealand’s position in relation to the prohibition of nuclear-powered vessels in our waters remains unchanged,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday.
The new agreement “in no way changes our security and intelligence ties with these three countries, as well as Canada,” Ardern said.
Asked whether New Zealand had been offered a place, Ardern said: “We weren’t approached, nor would I expect us to be.”
However, New Zealand is “conspicuous by its absence,” Democracy Project international analyst Geoffrey Miller said.
“Canada and New Zealand are sort of being relegated here,” Miller said. “It shows how far apart Australian and New Zealand foreign policymakers are.”
David Capie, director of the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University in Wellington, said that New Zealand was not being “sidelined,” but that the deal more starkly illustrated existing differences between the country and its security partners.
“It highlights that much deeper level of Australian integration into US defense and security planning and thinking about China and about the region,” he said.
“There’s no doubt this is a big deal, but New Zealand and Australia were in a different space to begin with, and this has perhaps just made that look sharper again,” he added.
“Australia and New Zealand are culturally quite similar and geographically in similar positions, but they are poles apart in terms of the way they see the world,” he said. “I think this alliance underlines that they are going in very different directions.”
The opposition National Party has been critical of New Zealand’s absence from the deal, saying that it looks like New Zealand was “left out of the loop.”
“The government needs to come clean about what happened here. Does this new partnership affect our ‘Five Eyes’ relationship? What about our relationship with Australia, the one country that we have the closest defense and economic partnership? And will this have an impact on our standing as a responsible international citizen?” said New Zealand Member of Parliament Gerry Brownlee, deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee.
“The government needs to explain why it looks as though New Zealand has been left out of the loop,” Brownlee said. “Were we consulted or at the table to discuss with a group of countries that we’ve considered like-minded for quite some time?”
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