During her visit to New Zealand, Sherman discussed the country’s strategic importance in maintaining peaceful relations in the Indo-Pacific region. She also indicated that she did not rule out talks with the Wellington government about the possible accession of New Zealand to the AUKUS pact. So far, the forces of the United States, Australia and Great Britain have been joined as part of a defense alliance. It is worth pointing out that cooperation between these countries is already functioning on the basis of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance.
In a meeting with the New Zealand Prime Minister, Sherman stressed the importance of coordinating US and New Zealand efforts in the Pacific, including promoting economic prosperity and the development of a free and open region. This is the basis of the pact in which New Zealand has already found its place – Partners in the Blue Pacific.
According to the US Deputy Secretary of State, the relationship between the two countries is “incredibly valuable”, adding that “the future will be written here in the Pacific.” The United States is now doubling its investment commitment in this area, demonstrating a sustained shift towards political and economic engagement in Asia. The next step may be to include New Zealand in the program aimed at increasing the military potential of the allies.
The presence of US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Wellington follows the New Zealand visit by the US Indo-Pacific military commander, Admiral John C. Aquilino.
In New Zealand, there is growing concern over China’s stance in the region. A study by the Asia New Zealand Foundation shows that more and more New Zealanders see the People’s Republic of China as a geopolitical threat to their country’s sovereignty. Currently, 58 percent of respondents think so. This number increased by 21 percent compared to the previous year.
New Zealand seems to be a natural contender for membership in the alliance, which is built not only on the desire to strengthen the defense potential, but also to unify the position of Anglo-Saxon heritage countries in relation to Beijing’s increasingly bold foreign policy. It is also worth noting that a large part of New Zealand’s military equipment was purchased from the United States.
According to the current assumptions presented by the New Zealand Defense Force, by 2025 the armed forces of this country are to achieve “networked combat force”. According to a document issued under the tutelage of Defense Chief Kevin Short:
“The military relations of the NZDF enable success in complex, joint and interagency operations in the country, in our region and in the world.”
The document in its provisions indicates a strong need to strengthen cooperation with regional partners, while maintaining interoperability with traditional military partners and ensuring continuous support for operations supporting the international order based on the rule of law.
Under the assumptions indicated by the New Zealand Defense Force, one should expect not only the development of the domestic military, but also placing this reinforcement in a broader, international context built on local and global alliances. The AUKUS Pact seems to be the closest to the guidelines provided for by the New Zealand army.
Looking realistically at the present shape of New Zealand’s defense capabilities, it can be expected that sooner or later the formal defense pact will be expanded with the participation of the United States and its allies in the region. In recent years, New Zealand has spent 1.5 percent of GDP on its military, which is evident in the country’s current military potential, which is incomparably weaker than Australia’s combat capabilities. The defense potential is also not strengthened by the geographical location of the islands, which are openly exposed to possible attack. For this reason, Wellington should consider membership of AUKUS, which could initially give New Zealand soldiers a share in the Australian nuclear submarine program, and ultimately strengthen their domestic military capabilities as well. A potential alliance with the United States, Australia and Great Britain would certainly be the best opportunity for New Zealand to strengthen its position in the South Pacific region.