by Ross Muir

New Zealand’s potential role in the AUKUS defence pact will be up for discussion in closed-door meetings in Wellington involving Australian PM Albanese, Blinken (US Secretary of State ), Hipkins and Mahuta.

The US suspended its obligations to New Zealand under the ANZUS treaty in 1986, in response to the introduction of a nuclear-free policy by NZ’s Fourth Labour Government, however, New Zealand was invited to participate in the joint US-Australia ‘Talisman Sabre’ exercise for the first time in 2015, and has been a consistent participant since then, including in the 2023 edition of Talisman Sabre that is currently underway in northern Australia.

This year’s version is the biggest yet, involving 13 countries and some 30,000 troops.  Countries involved for the first time include Germany and India (the latter as an observer), while militaries from all three of the smaller Pacific Island nations that have standing armies are also on board: Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.  

However, it is not all plain sailing, for the prime purpose of AUKUS is the strengthening of the military alliance against China and its growing Pacific “threat”, yet China is our biggest market in both selling and buying, so we have to stay sweet with it — some complicated juggling of diplomatic talk is coming up.

With a weak fumbling Hipkins and an aggressive Mahuta looking after our interests, thank goodness any agreements will most likely be scheduled to become effective from next year, when hopefully we will have a new Administration in the Beehive.