Address To The New Zealand National Committee Of Council For Security Cooperation In Asia Pacific (cscap)

  • Don McKinnon
Foreign Affairs and Trade

Nz Institute Of Policy Studies, Wellington

I welcome the opportunity once again to present to CSCAP my views on security in the Asia Pacific and beyond.

This annual event gives us an opportunity to take the region 's temperature and to consider where it is heading.

Two years ago, I spoke of a 'virtuous circle of extraordinary economic growth and stability in East Asia'.

Last year, the economic turmoil had hit. A year down the track, there have been some signs of limited economic improvement, but there have also been other developments which have an impact on the region's peace and stability.

Today I would like to review the changes that have occurred in the region over the past eighteen months.

I believe that there is still a relatively positive security outlook for the region we live in.

Yet situations can develop and deteriorate rapidly, witness the current crisis in Kosovo.

There are a number of flashpoints in our own region, but I believe that a judgment on the overall regional security situation requires us to take a step back from the detail. Only then can we see the big picture backdrop and the complex mixture of inter-related factors that determine our security.

The security of our own region has to a large extent been shaped by the interaction of the great powers.

In the aftermath of World War Two and the upheavals of decolonisation, the United States and the Soviet Union vied for influence. The PRC began its march towards big power status and Japan re-emerged from the ashes of war.

Most of the region's major conflicts and on-going points of tension related in one way or another to the interaction of the US, China and the Soviet Union. This played a large part too in the emergence of the complex architecture of state to state relations in Southeast Asia and influenced conflicts on the Indian subcontinent.

But great power interaction has produced a security framework which is largely responsible for the peace and security that New Zealanders and people in the rest of our region have enjoyed in recent years.

There are three broad reasons for the peace and stability of the region.

· First, relations between the major players in the region have improved enormously since the end of the Cold War. The relationship between Russia and the US is no longer beleaguered by the Soviet expansionism of Cold War days. Russia is no longer a dominant force in the region. China has now forgotten her ideological contest with the USSR. Territorial disputes along the border are

resolved and China is carefully cultivating the new Central Asia republics. Sino-US relations have improved beyond recognition, in spite of some on-going differences (including over Taiwan). And Japan has improved its relations with both China and the US. The China/US/Japan triangle is the key to stability in North Asia. This has enormous implications for New Zealand as much of our prosperity through trade is contained in that triangle.

· Second, Southeast Asia enjoyed a period of unprecedented growth until eighteen months ago. Focus on economic growth meant that other problems of territorial, ethnic, religious and regional nature were buried in a consensus built on prosperity. Cambodia and Myanmar remain difficult problems, but their ability to destabilise the region has now been contained.

· Third, the turbulence of the Indian subcontinent has at times been a potential factor for destabilising the region. But with the end of the Cold War and improvements in Sino-Indian relations the subcontinent has been left to resolve its own problems.

All of this paints a big picture of a region where the trend has been towards stability. The military presence of the United States in the region has contributed in no small measure to this trend, especially through its presence on the Korean peninsula, its security alliance with Japan and its policy of engagement with China, which has also had a beneficial effect on relations across the Taiwan Strait.

At the same time, there are a number of on-going problems in the region, including Korean reunification, Taiwan, the South China Sea, Cambodia, Myanmar and a number of lesser inter-state and intra-state tensions. The more serious have potential to disrupt the big picture of relative peace and stability.

The big picture may also come under a cloud as US/Russian relations are strained by the NATO air strikes in Kosovo. Developments in Kosovo have implications for global security and indeed for the multilateral system as a whole.

Against this background, our region has experienced at least four important developments over the past year. Taken together, they shape the way New Zealand views and responds to the security challenges in the region.

First, there are limited signs of economic recovery.

A year ago I noted that some said 'the biggest potential threat that exists to regional peace today could well be the economic turmoil in Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and now the rumblings in Japan'.

Since then we have seen some positive trends showing in Thailand and South Korea. But Japan is still struggling with its economic and financial problems. Indonesia is probably the worst hit, with no sign yet of the economic decline bottoming out. The region's economies are not yet out of the woods.

The crisis has introduced elements of political instability to the region. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea have all experienced the political consequences of the economic crisis.

The most far-reaching have been in Indonesia where elections scheduled for June will usher in fundamental changes to Indonesia's political system.

We will be witnessing the birth of the world's third largest democracy.

It is not clear whether these changes to the political system, encouraging though they are, will be enough to quickly stem the ethnic and religious unrest spreading through the archipelago. It is not clear either that this new democracy's longevity will be assured.

The interdependency of domestic security, political stability and economic recovery are most graphically illustrated by Indonesia. Foreign Minister Alatas' statement of 27 January, which opened up the prospect of independence for East Timor, showed that Indonesia is prepared to give the East Timorese control over their future. But the potential for a troubled transitional period in East Timor is of concern. The security situation has deteriorated in inverse proportions to progress towards a political solution. There are rising tensions and violence on the island, involving pro- and anti-independence groups.

The way is almost clear for some kind of UN presence to be established, possibly as early as May. Happily it appears that the East Timorese, the Indonesian Government and the Portuguese are all engaged in the process of addressing the future of East Timor.

Significant development and security support from the international community will be needed in the coming months. New Zealand is very willing to consider participation in a UN presence in East Timor if this is agreed to in the UN sponsored talks. We also envisage, as resources allow, an increased ODA contribution to East Timor and Indonesia as an integral part of New Zealand's response to developments. As East Timor moves enters its transitional phase, we will be looking increasingly at responding directly to its humanitarian and other developmental needs.

The social and human costs of the crisis have already been enormous. There have been an increase in poverty levels and sudden declines in education and health for segments of the population. These problems are being addressed in the region at various levels, but the real solution lies in a return to higher levels of economic growth.

We believe that APEC has a very important role to play in developing economic cooperation within the region.

APEC is part of the broader geopolitical architecture of the region, which helps to develop regional stability.

This year's APEC summit will be a major event and comes at a critical juncture in the region's economic development. We are convinced that removal of barriers to free trade in goods and services is an essential component in a range of reforms necessary to ensure recovery of the regional economies.

A further major theme of New Zealand's in its year as Chair of APEC is strengthening of markets. By this we mean addressing issues such as competition, transparency, accountability, regulatory reform, legal frameworks and capacity building. Addressing these issues will lay the basis for sustainable recovery in the region and resilience of economies to external shocks.

To date the security implications of the crisis have not made themselves felt directly in relations between countries of the region. This is testament to the success of regional cooperation.

And yet the structures of regional cooperation are under strain.

Some observers are questioning ASEAN cohesiveness and the ability of ASEAN to continue asserting positive leadership in regional affairs.

It is true that there have been some differences between ASEAN members and that a number of hidden problems have re-surfaced.

But I believe these problems should not be overstated, and that ASEAN will deal with any problems in its own way. There have been some problems with the Five Power Defence Arrangement in the latter past of last year when Malaysia withdrew from the exercises. The exercises, which we believe to be an important confidence-building measure in the region, are resuming. We are looking forward to continuing playing a full role in the FPDA.

The second development to adversely affect the regional security situation is the nuclear testing conducted in May last year by India and Pakistan.

Within the region, the tests have brought India and Pakistan's difficult relationship onto the regional security agenda.

Should India and Pakistan proceed to develop and deploy nuclear weapons and delivery systems, the increased dangers on the subcontinent would add a serious element of instability to the region as a whole.

India's test in particul ar has once again heightened tensions between India and China. In global terms the tests represent a significant setback to the non-proliferation process, in which New Zealand is deeply involved. There is potential to seriously undermine the NPT by causing others to rethink their commitments, particularly the potential 'rogue states'.

There has been widespread condemnation of the tests, including from New Zealand, bilaterally and in a multiplicity of regional and international forums. But there is no prospect of either country abandoning its nuclear programme.

We sincerely hope that indications given by both parties of their intent to sign the CTBT will be carried through, and that recent signs of improving relations between India and Pakistan will continue to bear fruit.

Thirdly, further anxiety has developed over North Korea as a result of the launch of the Taepo Dong missile over Japan at the end of last year.

There are some positive signs - responses from the North to the 'Sunshine policy', some progress in the Four Party Talks, and most recently agreement from the North that the US can inspect the suspected underground nuclear facility.

But the DPRK remains a maverick. Specific concerns about the North's nuclear programme have been sufficiently grave to call into question continuing support for the crucial KEDO initiative. New Zealand is involved in KEDO and sees this as a very important mechanism for addressing the nuclear issues on the peninsula.

Concern over possible future missile attacks by North Korea have given some impetus to US plans to develop Theatre Missile Defense and National Missile

Defence systems.

It is not clear at this stage that TMD/NMD is even technologically possible, and the US has made no decision to deploy.

But China is concerned that the proposed system is in fact aimed at China, and more particularly that Taiwan may be included under a TMD system. Russia too is alarmed. For both countries, TMD/NMD would up the technological ante. I believe that these issues will assume increasing prominence in the regional security agenda.

Finally, some tensions have arisen again between China and the Philippines over Chinese construction work on Mischief Reef in the South China Sea.

The dispute does not involve other claimants and is the subject of discussions between China and the Philippines and with China at the upcoming ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting. It is not a dispute which New Zealand need become involved in. We believe it is one for the parties concerned to resolve in bilateral or multilateral forums as appropriate.

This tour d'horizon highlights the new elements of instability that have the potential to disrupt what is still a basically peaceful regional security environment. What is being done at the regional level to ensure that things don't go wrong'

Prior to 1993, there was no formal region-wide multilateral mechanism for dealing with regional security problems at the Track One or governmental level. Before that ASEAN addressed its own problems internally, but there was no formal dialogue structure in North Asia. It took an ASEAN initiative for the ARF to be set up in 1993 as a region-wide security dialogue that would engage all the major players of the region.

The ARF Concept Paper, drafted at the beginning of the ARF process, established a three stage process of development for the ARF :

Stage One would be confidence-building, Stage Two Preventive Diplomacy and Stage Three Conflict Resolution. There are varying levels of comfort within the region with moving down that track.

The ARF is still in its early stages of confidence-building and exchange of views on security. We have always supported moving the ARF forward and some good work has been done in the ARF this year.

Drawing on the hard work of the Track II dialogue, and especially CSCAP, the ARF now has in front of it the elements of its next move forward : considering the concept and principles of preventive diplomacy and a framework of possible measures such as good offices of the ARF Chair and registers of eminent persons.

The process of moving the ARF forward is and must be slow to take account of differing comfort levels. But I believe that we must move forward to developing a conflict resolution capability in the region.

This is in New Zealand's well-established tradition of multilateralism and internationalism.

New Zealand's involvement in peace-keeping operations in our immediate region and beyond is an important instance of our commitment to pay our dues as a good international citizen. New Zealand has personnel involved in a wide range of peace-keeping operations and New Zealand contributions are well-regarded.

There are 105 defence force personnel deployed in 14 operations around the world. We have contributed personnel to UN activities in Iraq through UNSCOM, the Multinational Coalition and the Multinational Interception Force. New Zealand peacekeepers are at work in UN operations in the trouble former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, Laos, Cambodia, Angola and Mozambique. There is also a New Zealand presence in non-UN operations such as the Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and the Sinai Multinational Force and Observers.

Demining has been an important aspect of our contribution to peacekeeping. New Zealand has played an important role in the UN's response to the landmine threat. We have demining experts in Mozambique, Angola, Laos and Cambodia. We have been at the forefront of efforts to ban landmines and welcome the entry into force of the Ottawa Convention.

In our own region, New Zealand has played an important role in addressing the on-going problems in Bougainville.

Milestones in the peace process have included the signing of the Burnham truce by the fighting factions, the signing of the Lincoln Ceasefire Agreement by parties to the conflict and the establishment of a Bougainville Constituent Assembly. The presence of the Peace Monitoring Group, comprising military from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu has been an important element in developing stability. The UN is observing the ceasefire.

Our contribution includes provision of thirty NZDF personnel in the Peace Monitoring Group, funding for 25 Pacific Island monitors and an ODA allocation for the island. New developments include negotiation for an NZDF/PNGDF civic action project and a Limited Service Volunteer programme to be conducted by the NZDF for former combatants.

The peace process in 1999 faces a number of challenges.

The cooperative approach among Bougainvillean leaders that took the peace process so far in its early stages has now broken down.

The Opposition at national level has failed to support BRG legislation. On the island, divisions among Bougainvillean leaders are significantly affecting the peace process. What New Zealand is attempting to do to assist is to arrange for a study tour of Bougainville Leaders to New Zealand, to facilitate the re-establishment of active cooperation between the parties.

I should say here that the government is undertaking a major re-equipment of the New Zealand Defence Force.

One of the consequences of this will be to ensure that we are able to contribute effectively to international peace-keeping operations. This will also substantially assist in achieving greater inter-operability with Australia and our other defence partners. The re-equipment involves a range of projects including army re-building and the purchase of F-16 fighters to replace the ageing A4 Skyhawk fleet.

There is a continuing commitment to maintain a three frigate navy. It is important that we demonstrate that New Zealand is able and prepared to play the role that is expected of it in maintaining peace and stability in our region.

New Zealand's activities in the disarmament and arms control area are also a crucial component of our approach to security issues in the region and beyond.

Over the past year we have been actively promoting the case of nuclear disarmament through the New Agenda initiative, our staunch criticism of the Indian and Pakistani tests, our work in the Conference on Disarmament and our efforts to strengthen adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Non Proliferation Treaty.

Regrettably, despite calls for increased progress towards elimination of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament will proceed in fits and starts. There is now less certainty about the prospects for ratification of Start II and negotiations on Start III. And there is no reason to expect that the Nuclear Weapons States will move quickly towards total elimination of nuclear weapons.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to come back to our region. Our region is relatively peaceful and stable at the moment. Seen in historical terms, the security environment is broadly positive, in spite of the economic turmoil that has shaken it over the last eighteen months. This is particularly so when contrasted with the situation in other parts of the globe, and I have in mind here of course the tragic situation that has developed in Kosovo.

But there are hot spots in our region, and there is potential for serious deterioration. The region needs ways to address problems should they develop. It needs to work to avoid compromising the framework of relationships that has been built up to underpin the security of the region. We need to demonstrate a commitment to developing regional structures for addressing the region's problems in a multilateral context. The work being done in the ARF points us in the right direction. Various forms of bilateral and alliance diplomacy will continue to determine the region's security for the foreseeable future. But the multilateral track provides an important supplementary forum where countries like New Zealand are able to have a say in the decisions that shape our future.