US SOS Clinton Visit: Resumption Of US Military Exercises Not Expected
Article: Carl Suurmond
In a briefing to media before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's upcoming two-day visit to New Zealand senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials yesterday said they were not expecting an announcement of a resumption of exercises with US forces.
US exercises with NZ forces under the ANZUS agreement were suspended in 1985 when the then Labour Government announced a ban on nuclear powered or armed ship visits.
MFAT Officials said yesterday that they were not expecting any announcements concerning a US review of the security and defense relationship with New Zealand during Mrs Clinton's visit.
In October 2009 Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell for East Asian and Pacific affairs said, in an interview on TVNZ's Q&A, that a review, covering many aspects of New Zealand’s relationship with the US was underway (VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT below).
He conceded that it was absurd that the two countries military forces could fight in the battlefield together, but could not train together because of a presidential directive.
The Assistant Secretary of State said Secretary Clinton wanted to work closer with New Zealand and that the US recognized there were areas were the two countries could work together on.
Yesterday Ministry officials said that there was no expectation that the US review was to be released during Mrs Clinton's visit. As it was not a bilateral review it was possible that it might never be released.
Officials said American defense officials are not expected to be traveling to New Zealand with Secretary Clinton. Moreover specific discussions about defense issues relating to the review were not on the agenda as this was not in Secretary Clinton's portfolio.
The highlight of the visit by the first senior member of the US Obama Administration to visit NZ will be the signing of a diplomatic exchange "secondment" program.
The program, said to be a sign of closer ties between NZ and the US, will give NZ diplomats posted to the Washington embassy the opportunity to spend 12 months working at the US State Department. In exchange US diplomats posted to the Wellington embassy will be seconded to MFAT, for the same length of time.
The secondment program, to be signed on the Friday, will see NZ join the ranks of a few selected countries which also have the same arrangement with the US.
Security and diplomatic issues including the situations in Afghanistan, Burma and North Korea were subjects that officials said were likely to be discussed in Secretary Clinton's first visit to the country.
Other areas of discussion expected to be on the agenda include: terrorism, Yemen, climate change, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues and Asia Pacific regional issues.
Secretary Clinton will also attend a virtual opening of an Antarctic Wind Farm, a joint US, New Zealand project completed by Meridian Energy in December 2009.
(MILITARY RELATIONS ARE DISCUSSED IN OPENING SEGMENT AND FROM 11:00)
Q+A: US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell
Monday, 12 October 2009, 9:30 am
Article: Television New Zealand
Sunday 11th October, 2009
Q+A’s Guyon Espiner interviews US Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell.
Points of interest:
- US will present “a clear strategy” on trade issues, including the Trans-Pacific deal, at APEC next month; the Asia-Pacific region expects the US to lead on trade
- US in midst of “major review” of NZ-US relationship, recognising that “in recent years that New Zealand has been supportive of the United States in a number of arenas, we appreciate that, we want to support that”
- “You will see in the coming months a desire for the United States and New Zealand to work more closely together”
- New Zealand SAS “some of the finest special forces operators in the world”; New Zealand has a “pacifist streak… however they're pretty good in a fight.”
- Even with President Obama’s emphasis on nuclear non-proliferation, New Zealand’s nuclear-free stance is not a positive in NZ-US relations
- “…some political issues are best left in the 1980s”
- ‘Absurd’ that New Zealand and American troops can die together but not train together
- Barack Obama is the first Asia-Pacific President
- US working to “remove frictions” with China; “the region is big enough for the two of us”
The interview has been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be seen on tvnz.co.nz at,
KURT CAMPBELL interviewed by GUYON ESPINER
GUYON Thank you very much Assistant Secretary for joining us we really appreciated that. Can I look first at your perception of the region which you are responsible for. You said in an interview with Australia's ABC in August of this year, and I quote you 'the Asian Pacific region is really the dominant arena of politics and commerce and strategy in the 21st century, but with the United States so preoccupied in the Middle East and especially in Afghanistan, are you paying the sort of attention that you'd like to, to the Asia Pacific?
KURT CAMPBELL – US Assistant Secretary of State
I believe we are – first of all let me underscore something if I might, you know the United States in the 20th century had a large number of presidents, most of whom their primary experience before they were elected internationally was either in Europe or in Latin America. In many respect President Obama is our first Asian Pacific President, and that experience defines him in many ways, he's spent much of his childhood either in Indonesia travelling in South East Asia or living in Hawaii.
GUYON And will that have an influence on America's focus on this region?
KURT It already has.
GUYON In what sense?
KURT I mean I don’t want to give you a litany but let me give you just a sense in terms of our overall engagement. Secretary Clinton, her maiden voyage as Secretary of State was to Asia, the first time a Secretary of State went to Asia on their first trip since 1960, since Dean Rusk. Secretary Clinton has been to Asia twice, will be three times in her first year, we've met a whole host of Asian leaders, President Obama numerous meetings with Chinese, Japanese, new Japanese government ... others throughout the region and will during his first year in office will travel next month to Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore. We are acutely aware that there are questions in the region, that the United States have the wit and wisdom to remain deeply engaged in a place and time that is so critical.
GUYON Well you mentioned China there. Now China gives huge support and aid to many countries in the Pacific. New Zealand has a Free Trade Agreement with China, not with the US but with China, is the US comfortable with the emphasis and rise of China in the Pacific?
KURT Yes I think the United States supports strongly a China that is at peace with its neighbours, that plays an important role in the global economy and that helps to find the norms of global commerce and politics, indeed the United States has been very clear that the region is big enough for the two of us and we can work closely together.
GUYON Are we going to see increasing competition though between the United States and China and the Asia Pacific?
KURT I think the truth is that unlike other relationships that the United States has had in the past, like for instance the Soviet Union, kind of a monochromatic black and white friend or foe, you know it has to appreciate that it's coming relationship with China will be deeply multifaceted, there is hardly a challenge in the global arena that the United States cannot solve without China, it needs the active role of China in climate change, on issues associated with pirating, dealing with the economic crisis, and so close coordination and cooperation will be increasingly emblematic of our strategy in the Asia Pacific region, but in addition you know China's building a military, it has ambitions, and so it will be absolutely incumbent on this generation of policy makers and strategists to make clear the areas where we need to work closely together to remove frictions and to work wherever possible, create sort of rules of the road for how the two countries can coordinate.
GUYON Before I move more specifically to the New Zealand United States relationship, Australia obviously a big player in the region, John Howard described himself as the Deputy Sheriff in Asia Pacific to George Bush, does the Obama administration see Kevin Rudd in a deputy sheriff role in this region.
KURT I don’t think that terminology was particularly helpful, I don’t think it was ...
GUYON Why not?
KURT Well I think first of all it conjures up a kind of Wild West mentality that is probably not applicable to the complexities of the Asia Pacific region.
GUYON So not language that you would use?
KURT I think close partnership, deep strategic ally, is very important, but I think in the environment that that was used, and by the way I deeply bipartisan support the continuation of American goals that have been handed down in the Asia Pacific region for decades, but remember that was immediately after Iraq, and so there are a lot of concerns with the .... overall. I do believe that just as President Bush and Prime Minister Howard had a very deep relationship and you know they arrived in an important period together in the history of both countries.
GUYON That continues.
KURT Obama and Rudd see eye to eye on the dominant role how government needs to evolve to meet 21st century challenges, climate change, China.
GUYON Let's move more specifically to New Zealand, now everyone from Foreign Minister McCully to Secretary of State Clinton says that the relationship is in better shape than it has been for 25 years, but in what real pragmatic actual ways have things changed for the better?
KURT Well it's just numerous ways. First of all we've got a very active New Zealand commitment to ongoing challenges in Afghanistan. In the recent period as we coordinate with countries...
GUYON But we've been there since 2001 with respect, what's changed now, that’s eight years ago nearly, we've been committed to Afghanistan for nearly eight years what is different now?
KURT Well I'm actually trying to kind of give you a sense – I don’t think there is any one thing but there's a collection of things that I think suggest why our relationship is go good, for instance yes you’ve been in Afghanistan for eight years, but three years ago there was a rather deep divide between New Zealand and the United States in climate change, with many people in the Bush administration questioning whether this even existed, and the New Zealand government completely committed to it and wanting to take active steps. What we've seen is a meeting of the minds on a variety of issues, so working together in Afghanistan, the recent tsunamis and challenges facing the Pacific Islands, we're working closely with New Zealand and Australia, we recognise the leadership role that both countries play there, and on a host of other issues particularly climate change, recognition that this perhaps one of the defining issues of this generation
GUYON Let me mention another issue which I think is very interesting in the way that it's changed, I mean New Zealand was left in the cold with the United States largely because of the aggressiveness with which we pursued our anti nuclear policy, now that in some eyes could be seen as something of a positive stance given you had the President who has committed to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Do you think that perhaps New Zealand's nuclear stance now is ironically a positive in the relationship?
KURT I don’t, I mean I think you're mixing apples and oranges. What President Obama has tried to articulate is a strategy for how to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in global politics, and I think we can all aspire to that, but that is a visionary, in many respects utopian goal that will take decades to implement.
GUYON Isn't it a goal that New Zealand has been trying to pursue and other countries have been trying to pursue for decades?
KURT Yes but there is a difference between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, nuclear propulsion, I'm not sure we need to get into the details of this. I think the truth is that some of these political issues are best left in the 1980s and we need to focus on a new set of issues and arrangements going forward which we welcome. I do believe that there are a number of issues on global politics, non proliferation like, that the United States and New Zealand have worked well together and should continue in the future.
GUYON You say that you don’t want to relitigate the 1980s and I can understand that, I don’t suppose anyone really does but there are some things which still exist from that time which still affect us today, and there's still a presidential directive in place which effectively bans our two militaries from training together. Does it strike you as absurd that our two countries can fight on battlefields together but not train together?
KURT It does.
GUYON What are you doing about it?
KURT We are in the midst of a major review right now, I'd like to see the United States and New Zealand recognise some of the new parameters of the global environment that we're facing and see where we can work together while recognising that there are still issues, there is still a legacy that will make certain issues difficult.
GUYON But that’s fascinating and I'd like to tease you out on that a little bit, and so in what respect, are you saying that the two countries can and should train together and that we can somehow get around this presidential directive, or are you talking about changing that directive completely?
KURT I think that you will see in the coming months a desire for the United States and New Zealand to work more closely together in a variety of ways, we are in the midst of a review now, I think Secretary Clinton and others have made clear that we want to work more closely with New Zealand, we recognise that there are areas that we need to do more together.
GUYON What does that review cover Assistant Secretary?
KURT I would say it covers the full range of our relationship and I think there is a recognition in recent years that New Zealand has been supportive of the United States in a number of arenas, we appreciate that, we want to support that, we want to encourage it. Yes, we have one glaring issue where I think it's unlikely we'll make progress, but the whole relationship cannot be defined by that one issue, it is there, it is important, but there's many other issues that we're working on together.
GUYON Because for example New Zealand and Australia are looking at the possibility of a joint ANZAC Defence Force, I mean what would you do then, would you refuse to train with it because New Zealand was involved?
KURT Look I think I've been probably more forthcoming than you anticipated, I believe these are issues that we have to review, and it is in American interests, it's in the interests of the Asian Pacific region for New Zealand to play a more active role. The truth is this isolation has not been good for New Zealand overall, it's been in many respects self imposed, but over the last several years there are a number of areas that New Zealand has taken a very pragmatic very positive role, very active role, and we think that that has to be recognised in our global political stance.
GUYON Can I turn now to Afghanistan and the war that is raging there. Like many New Zealand has committed combat troops again to this war, which has now been lasting nearly as long as the two great wars put together. Is there any end in sight?
KURT You know we're in the midst right now as you know of a major review about the way forward, it is going to require enormous effort on the part of the United States international community to develop a strategy for the way forward. I think the truth is that there is substantial concern in NATO in the United States about what is our best way to establish a workable strategy that will lead to some form of stability in Afghanistan. You're here today as the President and his military commanders are actually meeting to talk about these issues as we speak, all I can tell you is that there is a deep and profound recognition that we need a better strategy for how to manage a set of problems that if not addressed will lead to the kind of developments that we saw tragically in 2001.
GUYON There are over 100,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan, why did you need 71 troops from New Zealand?
KURT Well first of all it's not just 71 troops, it's some of the finest special forces operators in the world. If you look at what some of the missions are in Afghanistan they require stealth, extraordinarily high trained sophisticated operations in a variety of difficult climates and environments, and when I talk with the special operators – I spend a good portion of my career in the Pentagon – when we talk with them and ask them you know who would you like to deploy with you know who do you trust in the foxhole beside you, without question and almost without reservation what one hears from American special operators is I like to operate and work with Australians and New Zealanders, and that’s appreciated and so it's not just 71, it's who these guys are, and the truth is that you know New Zealand has in recent years, has an important you know sort of pacifist streak in some respects, however they're pretty good in a fight.
GUYON How important is that pacifist streak though in terms of the symbolism – oh we've got New Zealand on board, it can't be such a bad mission – I mean is it more than just the fact that these men are good soldiers which undoubtedly they are, is it the symbolic element of having New Zealand on board?
KURT Well I mean I think the two go hand in hand, you know symbolism in a conflict is not worth very much honestly, the truth is that the special forces commitment, and now it's I think fifth or sixth deployment, is extraordinarily impressive, and so we welcome working with New Zealand not just there but in the full range of diplomatic you know halls of power throughout Asia. I'm finding you know we worked closely with New Zealand in the 1990s with Prime Minister Bolger and others, but I'm very impressed at how pragmatic, how forward looking, and how engaged this new government is.
GUYON It's a blunt question but I'll ask it anyway. What does New Zealand get in return?
KURT Well I mean it's not really for me to answer that question, but I do believe that it is in New Zealand's interests to have a stronger deeper engagement with what is still the dominant political military cultural economic power on the planet, and I think New Zealand recognises that there is much that we can do together. I also think philosophically as well as Helen Clark and previous New Zealand leaders worked with President Bush, I also believe that there is a sense in New Zealand of a harmonic almost with President Obama and his team, that yeah we can work with these guys.
GUYON You mentioned economic in that list, and a lot of people see it as a connection, they see that the people who get rewarded with Free Trade Agreements are the countries that fight the United States wars and are seen as strategically important, and I think you’ve said as much yourself, I'll quote you from the Spring edition of Washington Quarterly 2004 when you were talking about a bunch of countries who were getting closer to the United States, and you mentioned Australia, Poland an Romania, and you said and I quote you "these special friends have received clear perks from the United States including high level diplomatic attention and special preferences on trade deals". Australian got a Free Trade Agreement for fighting the Iraq War didn’t it?
KURT Well Australia did get a Free Trade Agreement and other countries in the Asia Pacific have as well. I think what is incumbent on the Obama administration right now...
GUYON Sorry – did it get an agreement for fighting the Iraq War though?
KURT No, I think it goes beyond that, I think Australia has been probably in the last ten years, has ascended to one of the closest one or two allies on the planet, so very hard to think of any issues in which the United States and Australia are not coordinating on, whether it's Indonesia, whether it's Afghanistan, whether it's Iraq, and so generally speaking there is a desire to work as closely as possible with Australia, because of what it does, what it has done and will continue to do with the United States. I will say that I think what's probably most important for the United States in the period ahead is to articulate a clear trade and economic strategy for the region.
GUYON Well are you doing that, because one of the first things that you did when you came in and you appointed a new US trade representative, Ron Kirk, is you put all the agreements on hold. Where's the signal in that?
KURT Yeah, I think it would be fair to say, well first of all it's early days, it's still a new administration, that’s been very ambitious in a variety of areas, in climate change ...
GUYON I don’t want to go through that list, with respect. What is the status of the trans Pacific partnership which is essentially a multi country Free Trade Agreement involving New Zealand and America, what is the status of that?
KURT Yeah, I think it'd be fair to say that we've had a very broad agenda on a range of issues and that the Asian Pacific region has been waiting patiently for the United States to articulate a more forward-looking trade and economic policy, and my hope is that when President Obama visits APEC in the coming weeks that we will be able to roll out an agenda that articulates what our vision is and that will include some points concerning the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] – what I'm saying is that I think the President will have more to say on this. One of the things that we learn when we're in government is when the President's about to go to the region for a trade conference to talk about economics and trade you don’t step on his message, so he's gonna be leaving in about a month's time for an important set of economic interactions within the Asia Pacific, including New Zealand
GUYON But we shouldn’t hold our breath for this agreement, is that what you're saying?
KURT Ah no, I'm not saying that either, I think you're going to see that the United States will articulate a clear strategy about how it wants to proceed on economic and trade issues, and there is an expectation in the region that the United States will continue to lead on these issues.
GUYON Because I've been at APEC when Condoleezza Rice has expressed the hope for an APEC-wide Free Trade Agreement, surely we can move on an agreement which has a smaller range of those countries?
KURT I think I'd just stand by what I said, I think first of all this issue will be on the agenda, the President will meet both of the APEC leaders; he’ll also have a US-Asean Summit while he's in Singapore. All the Asian leaders are going to ask the same question –what's the American agenda on trade, on economics, and I expect that the President will be very clear on what our American plan is going forward.
GUYON A bilateral Free Trade Agreement with New Zealand, is that simply something that is not being considered?
KURT I would simply say that one of the most important things for the United States to do is to deal with the Free Trade Agreements that are still – before we think about anything new, I mean we've got Colombia, we've got Korea, we've got some unfinished business that we have to address.
GUYON Alright that’s a pretty good place to leave it, thank you very much Assistant Secretary, we really appreciated you joining us, thank you very much.
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