The Guardian • Issue #2087

Australia and New Zealand’s ‘seamless’ march to militarisation

NZ soldiers in creek playing war games.

Photo: NZ Defence Force – (CC-BY-2.0)

The latest step in the militarisation of the Indo-Pacific has been taken. The inaugural ANZMIN ‘2+2’ joint meeting of Australian and New Zealand foreign and defence ministers recently concluded. It has drawn New Zealand deeper into the pro-US, anti-China cabal. The new right-wing government in Wellington seems happy to dump its sovereignty to prove its pro-imperialist credentials.

In an attempt to sell a bad idea, the media releases spoke of bringing the ANZAC allies ‘closer’ together and paraded all the old mythologies in a call to arms.

Defence Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with their New Zealand counterparts, Judith Collins and Winston Peters. Bringing the allies together is one thing. To proclaim a ‘seamless’ military unity, can only threaten peace and stability in the region. The right-wing pro-war Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) is excited, which is never a good sign. The headline on their analysis site, The Strategist, ‘Building an Australia-New Zealand alliance fit for the 21st century’, seemed to say it all.

The media release that followed the ANZMIN meeting was full of the usual none-too-subtle rhetoric. There were declarations about a commitment to an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific, about adherence to internationally agreed rules and norms, and about concerns about the South China Sea and East China Sea. The meeting “condemned”the DPRK, for what is, in reality, its decision to defend its sovereignty, and was critical of ‘human rights’ issues in China. But the meeting went further than simply acting as a mouth-piece for American anti-Chinese and anti-Korean propaganda, and this is what is disturbing.

The meeting resolved to effectively amalgamate the militaries of the two countries. Marles spoke of “constructing two defence forces which are seamless, in the way in which we are operating. We bring much greater effect when we work together than we do when we work on our own. Marles, warmed to his subject, when describing an ‘increasing integration between our military forces, including through common capability, exchanges of senior military officers and increased participation in war-fighting exercises.”

New Zealand Defence Minister, Judith Collins, has already indicated that her country would be playing ball, and would be acquiring similar “assets and systems” in order to blend the military capacities of both states. “For the first time, we’re looking to how we can work together when it comes to procurement … [We will] make sure that when Australia is undertaking its purchases, [we will ask] is it something we should be doing at the same time?”

It has also been announced that Australia will be briefing New Zealand on developments in relation to AUKUS. It is in AUKUS ‘Pillar Two’ that New Zealand will be expected to become involved. Among other things, this second phase of AUKUS is designed to develop advanced military technologies and will tie New Zealand more closely to Australia and the UK and especially to the US. This signals an important shift in New Zealand’s thinking and puts to bed any lingering thoughts of independent foreign policy on the part of Wellington. The US is pleased with the result as it seeks to tighten its noose around China’s neck.

The US campaign against China continues. It remains the core business of imperialism. John Pilger’s words from 2016 have an added intensity today. “The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, nuclear-armed bombers. This lethal arc extends from Australia to the islands of the Pacific, the Marianas and the Marshalls and Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. America has hung a noose around the neck of China.”

New Zealand is becoming another thread in the rope that forms the noose. There is a growing likelihood that the country will become part of AUKUS. Collins hinted at this when she said that “we really want to look at what the opportunities are and whether or not it is something we could be part of,” adding that New Zealand could offer space and technology expertise.

AUKUS, in the terminology of the joint statement between Australia and New Zealand, is “a positive contribution toward maintaining peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.” The reality is quite different. It is immensely costly. The working people will be paying the economic price for decades to come. It seriously heightens the risk of conflict between China and the US and its loyal allies. The price to human life, and to the planet would be colossal.

The economic fallout from an increased level of Cold War activity is barely calculable. New Zealand, until this moment, appeared to be relatively neutral, or at least  aware of its actual interests. It has been reluctant to join in Washington’s and Canberra’s mad anti-China rhetoric. It recognised that China’s economic interests and its own were more important than the rattling of sabres in the cause of imperialist dictates. It is now risking that economic security for very little.

China was quick to respond to the ANZMIN meeting and its dangerous posturing. It repeated its serious concerns about AUKUS and urged all parties against making conditions worse. Beijing also pointed out that peace and stability in the region is important and that “whatever role New Zealand is being solicited to play in joining AUKUS, it would no doubt cast a shadow on bilateral ties.”

Winston Peters and Judith Collins have, in delivering sovereignty into the hands of imperialism, done their bit to make the region and the world a little more insecure and a little more dangerous. Anti-Chinese sentiments are now being openly expressed by New Zealand’s leaders. The establishment of a new ‘seamless’ military relationship with Australia further heightens that sense of insecurity. Wellington’s potential joining of AUKUS seems to seal the deal.

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