Ahoy there – it’s one of our frigates headed for the crowded South China Sea

The  London  Economist   in its latest issue reported  tempers  are  flaring as the South China Sea grows  crowded.

The  maritime hubbub is an attempt to push back  against China’s claim to the  entire South China  Sea”.

Few  New Zealanders  are   aware that this country  is  part of that  push- back  and one  of the RNZN’s  frigates  will be  sailing into  those   waters,  even though – as the  Economist said – it is getting harder to sail across the South China Sea without  bumping into a  warship.

On  September  30 an American  destroyer passed within 50 metres of  of a Chinese naval vessel  which was  conducting  “unsafe and unprofessional manoeuvres”, according  to  the Americans.

Ships    from  Australia,  NZ, Singapore, Malaysia and Britain this month will take part  in more than  two weeks of  joint naval drills  in the  crowded  waters.  The RNZN frigate Te Mana is joining the large Five Power Defence Arrangements exercise, named Bersama Lima.

This follows a major deployment involving visits to Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Major General Tim Gall, Commander Joint Forces NZ, says the visits reflect the importance  placed on these relationships and NZ’s commitment to the region’s security and stability. They also seek to strengthen cooperation with regional military forces.

Last year the frigate Te Kaha spent six months in the region. The presence of the Navy close to the contested South China Sea has created concern among some National MPs who are sensitive to China’s reaction.

However, the current visit reflects the hardened view of regional security contained in the latest defence assessment, and  underlines  how   the Minister of Foreign Affairs  Winston  Peters  and the Minister of  Defence  Ron Mark   have  realigned   NZ   closer  to  Australia and  the  US   in defence  policy  and  exercises.

2 thoughts on “Ahoy there – it’s one of our frigates headed for the crowded South China Sea

  1. Freedom of navigation is vital for New Zealand. The fact that National Party MPs are sensitive to China’s reaction shows they are unfit to govern this country.


  2. On the one hand we have to demonstrate that we abide by the International rules based order system and freedom of navigation is part of testing that construct. So we do that. On the other hand we have to recognize that China is our major trading partner. This clearly creates a schitzophrenic situation where NZ doesn’t really know where it sits. Jab the hornets nest but still expect to suck honey from it.
    NZ has to decide where we really sit in relation to China.
    Are we happy to have our IP predated/ lifted by China? Are we happy that a whole chunk of the South China Sea has been militarized by China – contrary to International Law?
    There are events occurring that are similar to German history from the 1930s.
    We should not be comfortable with that regardless of the trading environment.


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