New Zealand Embassy Washington, United States of America

Defence relations

Security strategy

New Zealand is situated in the South Pacific, geographically isolated from the rest of the world. While our location has insulated us from direct military attack, we recognise that our broader security interests require us to be engaged internationally. As a trading nation, our well-being and prosperity are directly affected by the regional and international security environment. Over the years, New Zealand has contributed substantially to regional and global security efforts, working with partners such as Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. New Zealand’s defence and security interests centre on the protection of our people, our territory and our Exclusive Economic Zone - the fourth largest in the world. We have alliance commitments to Australia, our neighbour and closest defence partner. New Zealand’s security interests and obligations extend to the South Pacific and, as a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangements, to Southeast Asia. New Zealand has a strong commitment to collective security through the United Nations. Participation in international peace support operations is longstanding and a fundamental element of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

Like the United States, New Zealand is one of the few countries that remained free and democratic throughout the 20th century. However, our actions have shown that we do not take those values and freedoms for granted. New Zealand and Australia are the only countries that committed military forces alongside the United States in every major conflict throughout the 20th century. The asymmetric security risks of the 21st century are reshaping our security outlook and posture. We are enhancing our defence capabilities to meet these challenges. Our defence forces are increasingly playing a coordinated role in achieving security objectives by working alongside intelligence, domestic law enforcement and border control agencies.

Enhanced capabilities

New Zealand is investing in force elements that are trained, equipped, and maintained at appropriate levels of combat viability and readiness in areas in which New Zealand can achieve excellence and add value to international efforts. The Army is shifting from a light infantry to a motorised cavalry configuration that is faster, more versatile and capable of delivering more firepower in a greater range of situations. Key new mobility assets include “Stryker" Light Armoured Vehicles and Pinzgauer Light Operational Vehicles, while additional firepower has been gained through “Javelin" Anti-Armour Weapons and Special Operations equipment.

Through major new investment the Navy is upgrading its surveillance and support capabilities to complement our existing blue water combat fleet. Key new assets include a multi-role vessel, two 85 meter offshore patrol vessels, and four inshore patrol vessels. All of the Air Force’s Boeing 757, C-130 Hercules, and P-3 Orion aircraft are being upgraded to provide more capable and resilient aircraft able to meet New Zealand’s contemporary global military transport and surveillance requirements. These acquisitions are being matched by investment in people and infrastructure, with new funding increasing personnel levels by 15 percent, re-building munitions stocks, and improving planning and management systems.

Global contributions

International Campaign against Terrorism

September 11 changed the world for us all. Responding to the attacks, our Prime Minister said that New Zealand would do everything that it could to help, and we have done so. New Zealand was quick to contribute military assets to Operation Enduring Freedom. We have deployed our elite Special Forces to Afghanistan to combat the terrorist threat at its source. Their efforts, alongside United States and other Special Forces, have been subsequently honoured with a United States Presidential Unit Citation. Our most substantial military contribution in Afghanistan has been the deployment of a Provincial Reconstruction Team to Bamyan. We have also deployed ANZAC frigates and P-3 Orion aircraft to support interdiction operations in the Gulf region, as well as C-130 aircraft for tactical air transport tasks in Operation Enduring Freedom.

New Zealand is committed to international and regional counter-terrorism cooperation, and to improving its counter-terrorism capabilities consistent with the rule of law and fundamental human rights. New Zealand is also working closely with Pacific Island countries to encourage and assist their compliance with the international counter-terrorism agenda, including technical assistance to help them build their security and counter-terrorism capabilities. In Southeast Asia, New Zealand is engaging regionally on counter-terrorism capacity building, including strengthening legal frameworks and responding to terrorist threats. At the same time, New Zealand is interested in exploring some of the root causes of extremism and raising understanding between the different cultures and religions of our region through inter-faith dialogue.

New Zealand has significantly increased investment in its intelligence agencies to meet the new security challenges. Our intelligence collection and analysis organizations are small but highly regarded for their capabilities. New Zealand cooperates closely on intelligence matters with key partners, including the United States.

Countering the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

New Zealand has been a consistent and longstanding proponent of non-proliferation and disarmament. New Zealand and its Pacific Islands Forum neighbours strongly opposed nuclear testing in the South Pacific in the second half of the 20th century. In the mid-1980s, New Zealand’s concerns about nuclear proliferation resulted in the adoption of legislation prohibiting the entry of nuclear weapons and nuclear propelled vessels into New Zealand. The legislation does not prohibit visits by foreign naval vessels or aircraft that satisfy the terms of our nuclear free legislation, and indeed naval vessels from many countries, including the United Kingdom and France, have visited New Zealand since the legislation was enacted.

In recent years, New Zealand has supported non-proliferation efforts such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, the G8 Global Partnership Against Weapons of Mass Destruction, the United States’ Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Security Fund. New Zealand is strongly opposed to nuclear proliferation, and continues to call on all countries to comply with obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency. New Zealand has particular concerns about the threats to regional security posed by the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran. We continue to urge both countries to uphold their obligations to the international community.

Preventing Trans-national Crime

New Zealand plays an active role in preventing illicit activities in our region such as narcotics and arms trafficking, people-smuggling, and illegal fishing. New Zealand Police and Customs support our Pacific neighbours in preventing the spread of illicit drugs in the region. For example, in a 2004 joint operation with Australia and Fiji, New Zealand authorities assisted with the complete dismantling of a transnational organised crime group involved in the manufacture, distribution and sale of methamphetamine. New Zealand is working actively with regional partners in the Bali Process to prevent people-smuggling through Southeast Asia. Fisheries are important natural resources for the South Pacific. New Zealand is taking a leadership role in combating illegal fishing in our Economic Zone, the South Pacific, and Antarctica. We deploy naval vessels and aircraft to protect the region’s fisheries resources.

Peace Support Operations

As a small country, New Zealand attaches importance to collective security, the need for rules-based systems, and the important role of multilateral cooperation through the United Nations in building international security. New Zealand is a strong supporter of global peace support operations. New Zealand has a proud record, having been involved in over 60 different peace support operations in more than 40 countries since 1950. Significantly, more than 50 of these operations have taken place since 1991. New Zealand has made contributions to operations as diverse as Somalia, the Balkans, Cambodia, Haiti and Sierra Leone.

New Zealand contributes multiple small-scale deployments of military and police which provide “niche" capabilities to a wide range of missions. At present, New Zealand contributes to United Nations missions and to a range of coalition or regionally-led (non-UN) operations. New Zealand’s largest missions are currently in Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Solomon Islands, and the Sinai. New Zealand also has deployments in Bougainville, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan.

Stability and security in the Pacific is a priority focus. New Zealand has been a leading contributor to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) since its establishment in 2003, providing a mix of military, police and development assistance. New Zealand will continue to deploy personnel to RAMSI for the foreseeable future. New Zealand has had significant deployments to Bougainville (1993-1994 and 1997-2003) and continues to have a peace support presence there. New Zealand Police and military personnel are ready to respond at short notice to other contingencies in the Pacific, such as recent unrest in Solomon Islands and Tonga.

The most concentrated New Zealand deployment was to the peace support process in Timor Leste. At its peak in 1999-2000, our contribution involved about half of the Army’s infantry combat force and a third of the Air Force’s helicopter force. New Zealand redeployed a large number of troops and police to Timor Leste in mid-2006 to help stabilise renewed civil unrest. New Zealand troops have been continuously serving in the Middle East for half a century, including in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation, and as a founding member, along with the United States, of the Sinai Multinational Force and Observers. Other major deployments have included the almost 6,000 troops deployed to Korea from 1950-1957, and consecutive deployments (a total of more than 1,000 personnel) to the countries that formerly made up the Republic of Yugoslavia from the 1990s to the present.


With the United States and other partners in the Antarctic Treaty system, New Zealand seeks to ensure that the great ice-bound continent to our south remains secure and free of geo-strategic rivalry. We promote scientific knowledge and environmental conservation on the continent for the benefit of the world community. New Zealand and the United States have been close partners in Antarctica since we built our bases alongside one another in McMurdo Sound 50 years ago. The New Zealand city of Christchurch proudly hosts the United States support base for its Antarctic Program. The United States and New Zealand operate a joint logistics pool using military assets to deliver people and cargo to our respective bases on the ice.

Regional role

The South Pacific is at a crossroads. The renowned physical beauty and cultural diversity of the region now co-exist with growing problems such as poverty, ethnic and social strains, environmental degradation, and sometimes civil instability and transnational crime. As a long-standing friend and partner of our Pacific Island neighbours, New Zealand has played a constructive and cooperative leadership role within the region in addressing these threats to security. Political instability and the breakdown of law and order have occurred over recent years in Bougainville, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. In 2000, Pacific Forum Leaders signed the Biketawa Declaration, providing a framework for collective action within the Pacific Island community in times of regional crisis. Working with Australia and other Pacific Forum partners, New Zealand has contributed to regional efforts to restore order and stability through both active police and defence force contributions on the ground, and the provision of substantial aid funding.

In particular, New Zealand has played an important role in restoring stability to the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville, both at the negotiating and implementation phases of the peace process. In the Solomon Islands, since 2003 New Zealand Police and Defence Force personnel, supported by substantial development assistance funding, have made a significant contribution to the work of RAMSI, established by Pacific Forum leaders to assist with restoration of order and stability. New Zealand’s close and long-standing political and cultural connections with the South Pacific mean we are well received as a security partner in the region.

During 2006, in response to civil unrest, New Zealand led a deployment of New Zealand and Australian troops and police to Tonga. This underscores the importance of maintaining the capacity for a rapid response to contingencies which arise in the region. Most of New Zealand’s development assistance budget is spent promoting improved economic and social outcomes in the South Pacific. We work closely with Pacific Island governments to encourage good governance. New Zealand’s defence forces are often the main provider of hurricane and other disaster relief in the South Pacific, especially in Polynesia.

New Zealand actively contributes to efforts to reinforce stability in Southeast Asia. The ASEAN Regional Forum, with its broad regional membership, provides opportunities for New Zealand and the United States to work together on security issues. New Zealand is also a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangements. This important vehicle for defence cooperation between Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, makes a significant contribution to regional security. Further north, New Zealand’s continued membership of the multinational United Nations Command underlines our interest in the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

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