New Zealand deploying NZDF team to protect Red Sea shipping

New Zealand is deploying a six-member Defence Force team to the Middle East region to uphold maritime security in the Red Sea, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says.

“Houthi attacks against commercial and naval shipping are illegal, unacceptable and profoundly destabilising.

“This deployment, as part of an international coalition, is a continuation of New Zealand’s long history of defending freedom of navigation both in the Middle East and closer to home.”

The team will contribute to the collective self-defence of ships in the Middle East, in accordance with international law, from operational headquarters in the region and elsewhere. No NZDF personnel will enter Yemen. It is part of a continuous New Zealand defence contribution to maritime security in the Middle East since 2013.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says the strikes being carried out by the international coalition are against Houthi military targets which have played a role in attacking commercial and naval vessels. 

“These efforts support international security and the free flow of trade on which New Zealanders rely,” Mr Peters says. 

Defence Minister Judith Collins says the Houthi attacks show a disregard for international law, peace and stability, and the coalition response is an inevitable consequence of their actions. 

“Our NZDF personnel are highly trained and this deployment will see them work alongside their counterparts on an important mission. New Zealand supports global stability and this deployment shows our commitment to efforts to address a serious threat to that stability.”

Mr Peters says New Zealand’s actions to uphold maritime security in the Red Sea should not be conflated with its position on the Israel-Gaza conflict. 

“Any suggestion our ongoing support for maritime security in the Middle East is connected to recent developments in Israel and the Gaza Strip, is wrong.  We are contributing to this military action for the same reason New Zealand has sent defence personnel to the Middle East for decades - we care deeply about regional security because our economic and strategic interests depend on it.”

The deployment is mandated to conclude no later than 31 July 2024.

Attachment: Fact sheet - Maritime Security in the Middle East