Landmine Assertion "absurd" -BradfordDefence
Defence Minister Max Bradford today described as "absolutely absurd" the assertion in this morning's New Zealand Herald that New Zealand is training soldiers - including from Indonesia - to lay anti-personnel minefields.
"Anyone who believes this ridiculous claim is simply living in fairyland. In fact New Zealand is training soldiers in demining, in support of a critical global objective," Mr Bradford said. "I made this clear to The New Zealand Herald's reporter last week, yet for some bizarre reason the Herald has deliberately misled the public and chosen to sensationalise a non-event."
Mr Bradford said that under New Zealand's "Mutual Assistance Programme" military personnel from 13 Asia and Pacific countries are being trained in a variety of skills. In 1998/99 it is expected that 420 MAP foreign students will train in New Zealand, including an expected 26 Indonesians.
"Our defence relationships are part of the wider relationship complimenting economic, political and social links to enhance regional security by building confidence between the two nations," Mr Bradford said.
"The Herald's story relates to one Indonesian military officer, who - presuming he attends the Combat Engineers Course next year - will be taught the theory of laying a minefield as a vital prerequisite to understanding the demining training.
"If you don't know how landmines are laid, you won't know what traps to look for. The essential skills we are imparting are demining, not mining capability.
"I'm sure New Zealanders are already proud of the work our military has done in the international demining field in countries like Angola, Cambodia and Mozambique, where our work saves countless lives. The demining training in New Zealand is another aspect of our commitment to the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel mines.
"Both New Zealand and Indonesia are among the 121 nations which signed the Ottawa Treaty in December last year, and in fact Indonesia was one of the Treaty's leading proponents."