Parliament buildings in Wellington Monday 03 May 2004. EPA-EFE FILE/Marty Melville AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

New Zealand to boost defense capabilities to face Indo-Pacific security challenges

Sydney, Australia, Aug 4 (EFE).- New Zealand announced Friday its intention to strengthen its defense capabilities to face the “complex” and “disruptive” security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, given the expansion of China in the region.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to the media during a press conference at the South Bank Piazza during a visit to Brisbane, Australia, 23 April 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/DARREN ENGLAND AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

“The relationship with China is significant for New Zealand, and its cooperation will continue to be essential in addressing many global challenges,” reads the Defense Policy Strategy Statement released Friday by the New Zealand Ministry of Defence.

“At the same time, Beijing continues to invest heavily in growing and modernizing its military, and is increasingly able to project military and paramilitary force beyond its immediate region, including across the wider Indo-Pacific.”

The road map discusses the improvement of the effectiveness of “combat and other military capabilities” and stresses the need for New Zealand to be proactive in collective security efforts in the Indo-Pacific, where it considers that China’s “assertive pursuit of its strategic objectives” can “pose challenges to existing international rules and norms.”

The Indo-Pacific, through which much of the world’s maritime trade passes, is the scene of territorial disputes in the China seas, which Beijing claims almost entirely, and with the background of the crisis with Taiwan, an island that China considers a rebel province and has not ruled out invading.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang (R) and New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins (L) attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 28 June 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/JADE GAO / POOL

The signing of a security pact and a police agreement in 2022 and this month, respectively, between China and the Solomon Islands has also prompted the United States and its allies and China to increase their influences in the South Pacific.

In this scenario of competition with China, Washington, London and Canberra formed the Aukus security pact in 2021, which includes the acquisition and development of nuclear-powered submarines by Australia, while New Zealand, a denuclearized nation, is considering joining in the technological field.

In this sense, the New Zealand defense strategy statement said that Wellington “will invest in New Zealand’s international security partnerships, enhancing bilateral and wider arrangements,” without specifying its intentions regarding Aukus.

Alongside the defense roadmap, the government also released its National Security Strategy Friday, covering issues such as the climate crisis and the fight against terrorism, a crucial issue following the white supremacist attack in the city of Christchurch against two mosques in 2019, which resulted in 51 deaths and 40 people wounded.

“The domestic and international security environment has changed and our preparedness needs to change too,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement Friday, referring to the documents. EFE