Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Article: WikiLeaks: New Zealand Sells Itself as "a more Pacific country" than Australia - And As Key to Pacific Security. US Buys It. (Huffington Post)

In her latest Huffington Post blog entry, Cleo writes about what Wikileaks has to say about the security situation in the Pacific. An excerpt:

In a time when the Pacific is getting more attention from Washington, Wellington's role in advising on the region is becoming more valued.

This is potentially problematic in two ways.

First, NZ's information and advice may not always be as reliable as thought. There are examples of failure to predict/manage critical situations. For example, mismanagement of the Fiji coup by NZ/Australia resulted in pushing Fiji closer towards the China camp.

Similarly, in Tonga, New Zealand has been backing the 'pro-democracy' movement. That group triggered riots in 2006 that burned down much of the capital city. Following the riots, failure by NZ to substantially participate in the reconstruction resulted in Tonga having to take out a debilitating loan from China. The fact that a group supported by NZ as pro-democracy resulted in the country becoming indebted to an authoritarian country is a small indication of the something going wrong.

Another problem is the character of NZ's engagement of the region (which can affect intelligence gathering, analysis, and operations).

There is a perception of a pervasive NZ 'we know better' attitude towards Pacific island nations. For example, NZ is proposing sending a team to train the new Tongan parliamentarians in governance, in spite of the fact that the Tongan system is fundamentally different than the NZ one.

Second, NZ's interests are not necessarily US interests. NZ has its own range of national priorities and one would expect it to put those above the interests of partner states, no matter how close the relationship.

Article: Kingdom of Tonga, The Pacific, And Geopolitics, part 1 (Tonga Chronicle)

Part One of Cleo's series on Tonga, the Pacific, and geopolitics has appeared in the Tonga Chronicle. An excerpt:
While many in the region consider themselves a backwater, that is inaccurate. From a geopolitical perspective, the nations of the Pacific offer (among other things):
  • Sea-lanes and ports in relatively calm waters (increasingly important as China in particular increases trade with South America);
  • Access to fisheries (something increasingly important as the Atlantic is fished out);
  • Agricultural exports (especially important, as concerns over food security increase in    countries such as China);
  • Unknown but potentially valuable underwater resources;
  • Geostrategic military basing sites;
  • Crucial votes in international fora (Pacific Island countries represent around a dozen votes in the UN – a substantial voting block).
Given what is at stake, other nations are understandably keen to take advantage of discontent with traditional partners to advance their own position in the Pacific.
For more, click here

Article: Wikilieaks NZ Cables Mention Tonga (Tonga Chronicle)

Cleo's article on Wikileaks New Zealand cables has appeared in the Tonga Chronicle. An excerpt:
Similarly, in the 2007 cable, NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Deputy Secretary Caroline Forsyth “offered that New Zealand sees an arc of instability in Melanesia, as there is a great deal of money but little to no capacity to use it wisely. The Solomon Islands are under control at the moment but there are still significant problems in terms of governance and corruption. The GNZ is weighing the necessary structural changes needed to make a long-lasting improvement in the SI society so that RAMSI security forces might depart.”
The sort of ‘engagement’ that results in one nation sure thinking it can, and should, make “long-lasting improvements” in another nation’s society does little to build mutual trust and respect.
For more, click here.

Article: Pacific Geopolitics (Tonga Chronicle)

Cleo's latest Tonga Chronicle column is about how foreign policy decision permeate life in the Kingdom. An excerpt:
Nuku’alofa, Kingdom of Tonga – All Tongans feel the effects of foreign policy, whether it is when shopping for New Zealand products in Chinese shops, or applying for loans at an Australian bank, or paying for energy imports from the Middle East, or going to a hospital built by Japan, or having to fly through Auckland to visit relatives in the US.
Foreign policy decisions that affect Tonga are made all the time. But often, those decisions are not made in Tonga. Someone in New Zealand decides how many Tongans get seasonal worker visas. Someone in Australia sets import regulations that can limit Tongan exports. Someone at the World Bank writes conditions for funding that will keep the Tongan government solvent. Someone in Beijing decided the loan for rebuilding downtown would be paid back in Chinese currency.
Every day, and in many ways, foreign policy pervades, and shapes, life in Tonga. But, often, Tonga isn’t in control of that policy.
For more, click here.