Pacific Reset has climate change challenges in its sights – but China is a consideration, too

Defence Minister Ron Mark, when restating the government’s Pacific Reset at the multi-national Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore earlier this month, explained a shift in regional and operational imperatives.

He said:

“The Reset is both a vision, and a commitment to lift our ambition as part of the Pacific community. It is about changing our mind-set toaddress the increasingly complex issues in our region. It emphasises both what we are doing in the region, as well as how we operate.  Foremost, it is about genuine partnership and mutual respect.  In many ways the Pacific region is where NZ matters most and can have a more positive impact.  It is our neighbourhood, and where we most certainly act locally.

“Through our Strategic Defence Policy Statement, we raised the priority placed on our Defence Force’s ability to operate in the Pacific to the same level as New Zealand’s territory, the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.”

The Defence Capability Plan fleshed out this policy shift with details of new spending on ships, aircraft and surveillance by satellite and remotely-piloted vehicles. Continue reading “Pacific Reset has climate change challenges in its sights – but China is a consideration, too”

Why a birthday bash was called off on Mauritius – and why NZ sat on the fence on Chagos Islands vote

If we heard the BBC correctly this morning, Queen’s Birthday celebrations were cancelled in one of Britain’s diplomatic outposts this year.  The knees-up at the UK embassy in Mauritius was called off because the Ambassador reportedly sensed the celebrations might be inappropriate.

The cancellation might also have been an expression of British miff after the UN overwhelmingly voted (116-6) that Britain should return control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius.

New Zealand joined France, Germany and 53 other countries in abstaining.

The wellbeing of the Chagos Islanders, we may suppose, is not quite as high in priorities in foreign affairs policy as our relations with countries like Britain, the US and Australia (among the few to vote against the resolution).

Between 1968 and 1973, these islanders were forcibly removed from their homeland to make way for an American military base.

New Zealand’s regard for the International Court of Justice came into considerations during the vote at the UN, too. Continue reading “Why a birthday bash was called off on Mauritius – and why NZ sat on the fence on Chagos Islands vote”

Spark will be cheered by endorsement of UK’s handling of the Huawei spying threat

New Zealand  may  have been  presented with  a  model  to  follow  in  dealing  with the Chinese giant technology  firm  Huawei.  According to London’s  “The Economist”  Britain has struck an artful compromise on Huawei and 5G, even though many Americans and other friends of Britain will be appalled by its decision and fear the country is being naive and toadying up to China..

But, in an editorial, The Economist reckons  the UK’s  measured approach to dealing with the controversial Chinese firm is a model for other countries.

Britain’s decision matters: it is a member of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing alliance led by America, and was one of the first Western economies in which Huawei built a presence. Britain also has experience of electronic spying and knows Huawei well.

“Far from being a betrayal, Britain’s approach, of using the firm’s gear on the edges of 5G networks, under close supervision, offers a sensible framework for limited commercial engagement while protecting Britain’s security and that of its allies.” Continue reading “Spark will be cheered by endorsement of UK’s handling of the Huawei spying threat”

Ian Stewart – NZ diplomat and trade policy expert who dined with de Gaulle

With the passing of Ian Stewart in  Wellington at the age of 96, New Zealand has lost one of the last of a generation of diplomats which launched the country’s foreign service after World  War 11.

Stewart joined the Dept of External Affairs after wartime service in the Army. He rapidly became a European specialist and developed an exhaustive knowledge of the continent and its cultures, languages and, of course, post war Britain.

He had several postings but one in particular appealed to him.  He was No 2 at the New Zealand Embassy in Paris when General ee Gaulle was president of France.

One event he recalled was a dinner to which he had been invited by de Gaulle because the NZ ambassador was out of the country. Continue reading “Ian Stewart – NZ diplomat and trade policy expert who dined with de Gaulle”

Check out Peters’ stamina and Nordic travel plans before conjecturing on his political future

After  a gruelling  three  months as  the  key   figure of   Jacinda Ardern’s coalition,  Foreign  Minister   Winston Peters  might have  been looking  forward    to   a  quiet  Easter  at  his  Northland seaside  hideout.  Instead he’s  on  a  weeklong    mission  to  the  capitals  of   four   Nordic  countries  as  part  of    what he  calls   a  “deliberate and  targeted” effort.

He  says   NZ   needs to be  “well-positioned” in a changing  European landscape, particularly post-Brexit.

It is important to maintain bonds with countries which share our values for rules-based international order, and there is much we can learn from these countries”. Continue reading “Check out Peters’ stamina and Nordic travel plans before conjecturing on his political future”

Career officer is named as NZ’s Ambassador to Japan

Foreign Minister Winston Peters is proving true to form with the appointment of MFAT career foreign service officer Hamish Cooper as NZ’s next ambassador to Japan.

Peters is looking to revive Tokyo-Wellington connections which many inside MFAT believe have been pushed aside in the quest to secure to get alongside China.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has been in the job since 2012 and now ranks as one of Asia’s  most influential leaders.  His  role  in  reviving,    and  nailing  down,  the  Comprehensive  and Progressive  Agreement  for  the  Trans-Pacific  Partnership  after President Trump  pulled out of it  confirmed   his statesmanship

He has built a reputation in Washington as a capable strategist and a key to constraining burgeoning Chinese interests out into the Pacific. Continue reading “Career officer is named as NZ’s Ambassador to Japan”

The message from China to our PM (roughly translated) is ‘suck it up, Kiwis’

So what  has happened to   New Zealand’s “independent”    foreign    policy and how “independent”  is  it  when  NZ’s    leader   has to  sit    and take a  lecture    on  “trust”    from the world’s  most  powerful   dictator?

Our question is prompted by the  editorial  writer in  the  NZ   Herald who wrote: 

If  appearances  count,  the  Prime  Minister  has  made a  successful trip to  China.  Jacinda Ardern could hardly have  put  her recent  global  acclaim to better  use  than to   give China a signal of how  much  this country  values  the trading relationship”. 

Hello! Did  she  have to   travel  to  Beijing to  do that? Continue reading “The message from China to our PM (roughly translated) is ‘suck it up, Kiwis’”