New Zealand Being Left Out of AUKUS Shows Canberra, Wellington 'Going in Very Different Directions'
12:50 GMT 16.09.2021 (Updated: 11:16 GMT 21.09.2021)
On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison together with British counterpart Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden announced the formation of the new AUKUS defence and security partnership to "protect and defend" the three nations' "shared interests in the Indo-Pacific".
The fact that New Zealand is not part of a new security pact between the US, the UK, and Australia exposes Wellington's current differences with its traditional allies, experts have told The Guardian.
The creation of AUKUS was announced late Wednesday by US President Joe Biden
, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson. Australia's nuclear-powered submarine programme will be the alliance's first major project.
Referring to AUKUS, Geoffrey Miller, an international analyst at the Democracy Project at Victoria University in Wellington, claimed that New Zealand was "conspicuous by its absence" in the new alliance.
"Canada [which is not part of AUKUS] and New Zealand are sort of being relegated here. It shows how far apart Australian and New Zealand foreign policymakers are", Miller argued.
He added that even though Australia and New Zealand are "culturally quite similar and geographically in similar positions", they are "poles apart in terms of the way they see the world".
According to the analyst, "this [AUKUS] alliance underlines that they're going in very different directions".
Miller was echoed by Professor David Capie, director of the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University in Wellington, who described AUKUS as a pact that reflects existing divisions between New Zealand and its security partners.
"It highlights that much deeper level of Australian integration into US defence and security planning and thinking about China and about the region. 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", Capie asserted.
He insisted that the AUKUS agreement is "driven overwhelmingly by concerns about China" and that "notwithstanding the fact that China is not mentioned in the statements, it's all about China".
NZ Bans Australian Subs From Its Territorial Waters
The remarks came as New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that Australia's nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in her country's territorial waters after Canberra announced it would get new submarines as part of the new defence partnership with the US and the UK.
"The anchor of this arrangement are nuclear-powered submarines. It will be very clear to all New Zealanders and to Australia why New Zealand would not wish to be a part of their project", the prime minister added.
According to her, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
understands and accepts New Zealand's position on the issue.
Ardern emphasised the long-standing nuclear-free policy of her country, one that does not prevent it from taking a leading position in the Indo-Pacific region. The official hailed the engagement of other states in the region and said that New Zealand's partnership with the UK, the US, Canada, and Australia has not been "diminished" by the AUKUS deal.
New Zealand has pursued a policy of being a "nuclear-free zone" since 1984. This prohibits any foreign ships carrying nuclear weapons from entering its territorial waters. In 1987, the provisions were expanded and became legally binding.