Pacific partnerships: Winston Peters highlights the importance of New Zealand's relationship with the United States.

AuthorPeters, Winston

New Zealand is a small but well-functioning democracy located at the bottom of the world. New Zealand is small, to be sure, especially when seen on a map as an isolated collection of islands surrounded by the vast Pacific and Southern oceans and which has us situated some 2500 kilometres from our nearest neighbour, Australia. New Zealanders are a proud people, proud of our history and full of pride about our historic social reforms in the 1890s and 1930s. Just as Americans feel proud about their founding, with a purpose for the ages unfurled in the Declaration of Independence and then codified in the Constitution that created the great American experiment in government, New Zealand is singularly proud of one of our firsts--women achieving the franchise in 1893.

The quintessential American writer and humourist Mark Twain noted when visiting our shores in 1895 that in New Zealand law occurs thus:

The word person wherever it occurs throughout the Act includes women. That is promotion, you see. By that enlargement of the word the matron with the garnered wisdom and experience of fifty years becomes at one jump the political equivalent of her callow son of twenty-one. New Zealand also produces world-class athletes and excellent food and wine products for export, and we have an innate desire to engage with the world. This latter characteristic is in equal parts a reflection of our geography and of our national psyche. It has led us on a history of being a supportive friend and a plain speaking people, which Twain also observed about us. It also means that now, as then, we consistently seek out good partnerships.

There are few relationships better than that between New Zealand and the United States. We share a special connection for we both retain democratic traditions that have stood firm despite the upheavals of the 20th century. Our institutions are founded on democratic values, respect for human rights, freedom of speech and assembly and free and fair trade. Promoting and maintaining the rule of law is the defining feature of both of our political systems. Because of these common values and democratic traditions, it is hardly surprising that our global interests so often correspond, and that we have repeatedly worked together in times of international crises and in the face of major global challenges. And we will continue to do so.

We recently celebrated 75th anniversaries of Allied efforts to liberate the Pacific in the great campaigns of 1942 and 1943, in which the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands communities sacrificed so much. We fought together in the two world wars, and in Korea and Vietnam. Today the New Zealand Defence Force is present in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside US personnel.

While New Zealand and the United States work together on a range of global issues, our co-operation and like-mindedness is now coming into sharper relief in the Asia-Pacific where the region is becoming more contested and its security is ever more fragile. It is New Zealand's view that the Asia-Pacific region has reached an inflexion point, one that requires the urgent attention of both Wellington and Washington.

A nuclear-armed North Korea is one threat that has the potential to undermine security. New Zealand's diplomats and its Defence Force are engaged in support of US-led efforts to enforce UN resolutions, with the expectation that pressure will force meaningful dialogue. We are pleased that the United States and North Korea are back at the table.

In the South China Sea, claimants in the various...

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