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The prospects for economic and military security in Australasia.


Asia consists of a number of conceptually discrete but, in part at least, politically and economically interdependent subsystems. Australasia is one of these. Its closest political and economic relationships are with Southeast Asia and it has lesser links with Northeast and South Asia. It is bounded to the north by Southeast Asia and to the west by the Indian Ocean and through that the littoral states of South Asia. Australia is a border state in each direction and Papua New Guinea has a land boundary with Indonesia.

Interdependence means that the level of security experienced by any one subsystem both affects and is especially affected by the security of its neighbours be they individual states or subsystems of states. This does not mean that the subsystems act as independent actors. They do not, perhaps with the partial exception of ASEAN which has managed to develop a degree of political and, to a lesser extent, economic cohesion. In most cases individual states are, and look set to remain, the main actors within the international environment at all levels. It does mean that an analysis of any subsystem must take into account the activities and policies of not only its component states, but also of neighbouring states and adjacent subsystems.

Australasia consists of the two modern western states, Australia and New Zealand, the many small and developing states of Oceania (Pacific Island Countries or PIC) and the 'internationalised' Antarctic continent.(1) There are no internal [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] land borders and only one (between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia) external one. Table 1 lists the states of Australasia and gives some basic economic and military data.

There are many states, many ethnicities and a considerable diversity of economic capacity and strategic capability within Australasia. In this the subsystem has both similarities and differences with other regional subsystems. In its diversity it may be said to resemble other subsystems within Asia. But there are significant differences. It has more members, but there is no state or group of states with the economic characteristics of the fast developing Asian economies; the states are either fully developed and growing relatively slowly (Australia and New Zealand) or, in most cases, too small to undertake the kinds of economic activities being carried on in, for example, Malaysia, India, South Korea or even Vietnam. The population and range of economic activity of some of the PIC is such that they are not viable without external aid. The subsystem is also different from other parts of Asia in that there are few disputes which could lead to inter-state conflict. In part this is because of the lack of common land borders, in part because most states do not have the capacity to undertake significant military operations and, most importantly, in a large part because there are formal processes of political and technical dialogue and cooperation between the states. The Antarctic continent is a special case. It is internationalised and states work and conduct research in it under the rules of the Antarctic Treaty.

The Wider Security Environment

Greater Asia is a region of diverse economies and states with a diverse range of strategic interests and ambitions, and military capabilities. There are large states with regional (or global) interests, there are medium states with limited regional and sub-regional interests and there are small states with few interests outside their own immediate locality. There is clearly potential for these states to clash in different ways as interests and capabilities come into conflict.

In practice, now, the states normally do not fight. Conflicts of interest have generally been able to be managed within existing multilateral political institutions such as the UN, ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the South Pacific Forum, or through less formal processes and dialogues such as the Indonesian sponsored dialogue on conflicting claims to the South China Sea, or the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO) established to manage and oversee North Korea's use of nuclear energy. The subregional institutions have, since 1991, been supplemented by the region-wide process of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) which links the economies of North America with those of most Pacific Asian states. The presence of U.S. forces within much of the region has also been a disincentive to the arbitrary use of force.

Of course, there are areas in which conflict has occurred and where there is the potential for more conflict. India and Pakistan have a history of tension, as does China with all its neighbours (it specifically has not precluded the use of force to regain Taiwan) and a number of states of central Asia with each other. All seem to be working to resolve or at least dampen areas of dispute. Similarly, there are numerous territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Some of these have resulted in low level conflict. In recent years though, the use of armed force as a means of resolving inter-state disputes has decreased significantly and now there appears to be little appetite for it.

A local newspaper has editorialised that "we do not think it too bold to characterize the present period as the start of a Pax Asiatica," and that the "new Pax Asiatica rests on a community of interests, rather than on a balance of hostile powers. That is a revolution in world affairs of the greatest magnitude" (Asia Times, 30 December 1996). If this assessment is correct (as it may well be for Pacific Asia if not the wider Asian region), then there is, in the short-term at least, a new stability. It seems from that, that, despite some reluctance from Asian states which are suspicious of western dominance and formality, political institutions will develop in Asia and these institutions will contribute to the wider security over time, particularly as the participants see that stability in the long-term is more beneficial than gain in the short-term.

There are, however, significant differences in the strategic setting within which each subsystem operates. Australasia and Southeast Asia already have relatively well-developed institutions and form 'security communities' (Deutsch, 1957; Buzan, 1983:114-115) in which there is virtually no thought that armed force could be used to resolve disputes. Northeast, Central and South Asia, though, consist of states which tolerate each other at best, are enemies at worst. They form 'security complexes' (Buzan, 1983:112), which "emphasise the mutuality of impacts between actors," rather than the security communities of the southern sub-systems. Within these security complexes there is clearly more scope for conflict.

Both Australia and New Zealand have eagerly embraced Asia as a source of and a destination for foreign direct investment. Asian markets figure prominently in the top 10 for exports for both countries. Both countries have increasing migration from Asia and, despite some domestic resistance from people who wish to maintain themselves within states separate and distinct from Asia, encourage it.(2)

This view of Asia as a region of cooperation and economic opportunity rather than one of threat is cautiously reflected in the official security analyses published regularly by both Australia and New Zealand. There are, however, nuances to this view and slight differences of perspective between Australia and New Zealand, which may be explained by their respective geographical positions, strategic cultures, and military security experiences. Both countries' assessments of the state of international society reflect clearly the realist view that conflict between states is always possible, whether or not it can be discerned in the immediate geo-strategic environment.

Australia, with a northern border abutting the southern extremities of East Asia and with the direct experience of attack on its territory during World War II, identifies the region as being 'relatively peaceful,' yet:

the relative peace may not last. The pattern of stable strategic relationships which has underpinned Asia's security in recent years is changing. The two major influences are the shifting relationships between the major regional powers, and economic and political change throughout Asia (Australian Government, 1994: 7).

Australia's response to this development is one of "strategic partnership . . . strategic commitment . . . and constructive contact" depending on the subregion in question (Australian Government, 1993: 21). Specifically, for East Asia, Australia is moving beyond its policy of 'constructive engagement' into a new diplomatic, security and economic strategy that emphasises 'partnership and integration' with the area's rapidly expanding economies (DFAT, n.d.).

Australia has a strong pattern of bilateral contacts between its armed forces and those of a number of regional states, especially those of ASEAN. Singapore, for example, carries out a significant part of its air force training in Western Australia. In late 1995 Australia signed a security treaty with Indonesia (Government of the Republic of Indonesia, Australian Government, 1995). This treaty commits the two states to consult in "the case of adverse challenge to either party or to their common security interests." More importantly, it reflects the way relations between the states have improved over the decade to 1995 to the extent that they trust each other sufficiently to commit to such an arrangement. Links between the two armed forces are likely to increase substantially in the future.

New Zealand also has formal doubts about the region:

As a global war becomes less likely than ever, the possibility of regional conflicts may have increased. Lowering the risk of superpower involvement also means lowering the stakes, making wars by middle powers more thinkable (New Zealand Government, 1991: 23).

In practice though, as with Australia, New Zealand has well developed bilateral links with Malaysia and Singapore and less developed links with other states in Southeast Asia. Australia and New Zealand are formally allied with Malaysia, Singapore and Britain in the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) which date from 1975, but which are the continuation and successor to post World War II colonial arrangements established by the three western countries. Now the FPDA has a formal policy body, an integrated air defence system covering Singapore and the Malaysian Peninsula, and a regular series of land and sea exercises in which all member states participate (Rolfe, 1995a).

There is thus some divergence between the formal statements by Australia and New Zealand of worry about instability in the region and the actual movements to engage it both economically and militarily. This could well reflect the speed at which perceptions of security alter according to current events and worries rather than longer-term factors. Both countries are, in any case, enthusiastic proponents of a region in which institutions are developed to ensure that rules rather than power define process and outcome.

Economic and Military Security: Perceptions and Needs

The relationship between economic strength and national security was a staple of classical economic discourse in the 19th century. Today, it is more or less taken as a given that without economic security there can be no true national security.(3) This is as true for Australia and New Zealand as it is for the small Pacific island states in the subsystem.

The countries do differ, of course, in the emphasis they place on the military component of security. Both have evolved from an almost absolute reliance on alliance relationships for their security to a situation where there is no real expectation that an alliance will have to be used against a military threat. Australia places considerable reliance on the ability to deter and defeat any potential enemy through the use of armed force. New Zealand for its part, sees the armed forces more as an instrument for ensuring regional stability rather than pursuing the familiar and narrow national interests of territorial defence or deterrence. The two countries differ accordingly in the resources they are prepared to allocate to military expenditure. Few of the island states possess armed forces. For all of them, security comes through resource sustainability, the state of the environment and other 'non-traditional' security issues, all of which directly affect their economic viability.

For both Australia and New Zealand the economy is central to any discussion of national security. Both countries are enthusiastic promoters of international deregulation and international free trade. Both countries worked strongly for the Uruguay Round of GATT and both support the World Trade Organisation. Australia was an early promoter of the APEC process and both countries argue strongly for 'open' regionalism with processes based on rules rather than on economic or other forms of power. They do this because they see themselves as part of the international economy and because this kind of international environment is one in which they believe they can prosper and thus be secure.

Although economic factors are pre-eminent for both countries, neither neglects the military component of security. Both have formally recognised a relationship between economic and military factors in their respective analyses of their own security needs. Australia, for example, espouses 'self-reliance' - the ability to "defend our country without depending on help from other countries' combat forces" (Australian Government 1994: 13). Economic development makes self-reliance "more achievable" (Australian Government, 1994: 14). To achieve security the policy responses are seen by Australia as:

multidimensional. They go well beyond strictly military capabilities, essential though these are. They also embrace traditional diplomacy, politico-military capabilities . . . economic and trade relations, and development assistance (Evans, 1989: 2, cited in Ball, 1993: 18 [emphasis in the original]).

To ensure security, Australia is upgrading all elements of its armed forces (new surface warships, submarines and upgraded avionics in the F111 strike reconnaissance force), deploying significant elements of the forces to its northern regions, and "ensuring that we can operate better there than any adversary" (Australian Government, 1994: 26).(4)

New Zealand sees economic prosperity and security in a similar way, although it does not promote the military component of security as strongly as does Australia:

Geography has ensured that New Zealand's strategic situation is highly favourable . . . [but] New Zealand is a small country with very limited fiscal resources . . . we have never spent very much on defence in peacetime and our current economic difficulties mean that even that modest share has declined from 2.1% of GDP in 1988/89 to 1.8% in 1990/91. A defence policy that is not fiscally sustainable over long periods is neither effective nor economical (New Zealand Government, 1991: 28-29).

That statement was made at a time when the economy was at a low point of performance during a period of intense restructuring (started in 1984) designed to bring New Zealand into the global marketplace (Dalziel and Lattimore, 1996). Now, in the name of economic security, New Zealand has an almost totally deregulated economy in which economic strengths such as low and stable inflation, relatively low unemployment, (for New Zealand) relatively high growth, and a budget operating surplus are visible.

Self-reliance is also a requirement for the New Zealand Defence forces (NZDF), but it is a "self-reliance in partnership" (New Zealand Government, 1991). Self-reliance cannot stretch "so far as to cover support and protection of these [international political and trading] interests" (NZDF, 1996: 5). Thus partnership is necessary and the NZDF must be "capable in the eyes of current and potential allies" (NZDF, 1996: 5).

Since the early 1990s the armed forces have had no real increase in funding, leading observers and military leaders to warn of an impending crisis and to raise doubts about credibility. Much of the debate on the 'appropriate' level of funding for the armed forces takes place in a policy vacuum because there are no distinct tasks (for example: 'defend New Zealand' or 'be able to participate in two wars simultaneously') against which equipment and thus funding requirements can be measured. Instead, the armed forces are required to "support national aims" and be able to "contribute towards shared [international] interests" (New Zealand Government, 1991: Chapter 2). This requirement to promote security interests rather than protect security clearly is a requirement capable of interpretation to a level as high, but more normally as low, as politically convenient. It is not a requirement capable of sensible military-strategic analysis.

There have been increases in capability in the last decade. New warships have been ordered, the A4 attack aircraft fleet has been strengthened with additional aircraft and updated avionics, a fleet tanker has been purchased and the army has received new artillery and air defence capabilities. Most of this has come about through the savings inherent in New Zealand's public sector reforms, which have affected the armed forces in the same way as all other government agencies, rather than through increased funding levels. There are few more savings to be made without dramatic cuts in capability. More likely, there will be a trickle of finance to ensure that a minimal level of capability can be maintained without political cost. The determinant, in other words, will be as much political as military. Because the official doctrine is (realistically) one of 'no direct threat' it is unlikely that even if New Zealand's economy was significantly larger than it is now, there would be any dramatic increase in spending on the armed forces.

In Oceania, security is defined by the Pacific island states almost without any concept of defence against military threat. Rather, according to Hegarty and Polomka (1989: 2), it involves preventing or mitigating the effects of economic vulnerability, resource and environmental degradation and to a lesser extent ensuring national stability. Saemala (1989: 51) lists the primary security concerns of the Solomon Islands as being: national unity, economic development, education and health.

This concern with non-military factors is because most countries face challenges derived not from neighbouring states but from general contextual and environmental factors. These include problems brought about by remoteness, rapid population growth in some areas outstripping the ability of the existing infrastructure to provide adequate services, population decrease in other areas leading to almost total depopulation, a lack of significant economic activity, falling health and educational standards, and the breakdown of traditional tribal and family based patterns of social and cultural behaviour leading to increased crime. Specific environmental problems include: soil depletion, deforestation, desertification, contaminated water supplies, global warming and the greenhouse effect. In the South Pacific, Ball (1989: 19-21) argues, these environmental issues represent the real security problems of the next couple of decades.

The degree of economic development varies considerably within the region. Most states are dependent on foreign aid and remittances from expatriate citizens, and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Fairbairn (1994: 11-12) categorises the countries according to their resource endowments. The Melanesian states of western Oceania, particularly Papua New Guinea and Fiji, do have mineral and agricultural resources but neither has significant foreign investment. Nauru is a special case in which considerable wealth has been obtained through the exploitation of the only natural resource, phosphate, but where the end of the resource may well signal a sudden and dramatic drop in living standards.

Other states have almost no resources to develop and limited agriculture. Unless these states continue to have a population base able to work in Australia and New Zealand and remit money home, they will not be able to sustain more than a subsistence lifestyle. Western Samoa, the Cook Islands and Tonga are in this category, but will only be able to continue to be so for as long as relatively liberal immigration laws remain in, especially, New Zealand.(5) Some will try to rely on tourism (for which there is only and can only be a limited infrastructure because of limited population resources) and on exploitation of their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). States such as Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands are remote and resource poor. They rely considerably on aid and imaginative projects, such as achieving tax-haven status, which have only a short shelf life.

Stability and Instability: Mutual and Conflicting Interests

Because the sub-region is remote from major trade routes and economic resources, because there are no internal land borders, and because there are few serious historical enmities there are fewer potential causes for conflict in the Australasian subsystem than in most others. Few states within the area have significant military capacities (Australia and to a lesser extent New Zealand are the main, although not the sole, sources of military strength) so, even if cause for conflict did exist, the capability to use military means to resolve it is severely limited.

In fact, interstate relations within the Australasian subsystem are generally cordial. All states belong to the major regional political grouping, the South Pacific Forum (more generally known as the 'Forum') and use its annual head of government meetings to resolve such issues as do arise. Also, many states have a shared political culture and heritage as one time British colonies and now members of the Commonwealth.

The colonial past and its present manifestations are the main source of systemic military insecurity and instability within the Australasian subsystem. There are two current tension areas: Bougainville; and the French territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Futuna. Bougainville, a small island in the east of Papua New Guinea (PNG), is currently attempting to secede from PNG, in part because of the artificial colonial-era separation of the island from the Northern Provinces of the Solomon Islands with which it is ethnically linked. It is not, however, in the interests of either PNG or the Solomons to allow secession because to do so would undoubtedly exacerbate other currently latent tendencies to separatism. The Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) has declared the island as independent and a small but vicious civil war has continued for several decades. In itself this is not an affair of regional concern, however the people of Bougainville have ethnic ties with those of the neighbouring Solomon Islands rather than with Papua New Guinea and there have been accusations by PNG government that the Solomon Island government has been supporting the BRA either tacitly through allowing safe haven, or through the provision of materials to assist the revolutionary movement. There have been incursions by the PNG armed forces into Solomon Islands territory in search of BRA members and there have been claims that PNG forces have attacked Solomon Island villages.

In early 1996 PNG Defence Minister Mathias Ijape warned that the Solomon Islands would have to stop providing "refuge or haven for Bougainville rebels or face intrusion by PNG security forces" (National, 27 March 1996). This move was condemned by local commentators: "Mr Ijape's statement . . . is ill thought out, irresponsible and must be withdrawn today" (National, 27 March 1996), and was formally rejected by the PNG government: "[the statement] did not represent the official position of the government of Papua New Guinea" (National, 29 March 1996), although the overall tenor of condemnation of any support for the BRA was tacitly accepted. There is clearly a possibility of some continuing tension between the governments.

Attempts have been made to mediate the dispute. In 1990 New Zealand provided a warship as a neutral venue for talks between the two sides, and in 1995 a Pacific Peacekeeping Force was established by Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu with the logistic and administrative support of Australia and New Zealand.(6) In 1997 following talks between the parties, a cease-fire was signed.

The situation in Bougainville is the most problematic for subsystemic stability. However, as neither Papua New Guinea nor the Solomon Islands has the capacity to cause serious damage to the other and neither wants to, there is unlikely to be more than the occasional incursion on islands between the two countries. This is as likely to be because the PNG government has no proper control over its armed forces as because of any policy decision by either government.

The situation in the French territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Futuna is different. There, France remains the colonial power in a chain of islands stretching across the South Pacific and covering an area several times that of the French mainland. There was significant conflict in the late 1980s in New Caledonia as pro-independence forces battled the French government, and there were disturbances again in 1995 following the resumption of French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll. Following mediation and acceptance of the 1988 Matignon Accords a referendum on the future of the major territory, New Caledonia, is scheduled for 1998. Even if New Caledonia chooses independence, as it may well, the other two territories are likely to remain economically dependent on France to the extent that full independence is not a viable option.

Internal security is a low-key although increasingly significant security issue for a number of Pacific Island states, although it is not likely to become an issue of regional security concern. Unlike much of the so called Third World, the South Pacific region has experienced few coups, in part because there are only limited military capabilities in the region.

Fiji, following the election in 1987 of a government dominated by ethnic Indians, has experienced two coups which have reinforced the dominant role of Fijians in the country's political life. Now, the constitution is being altered to ensure that situation remains, but it seems that a new constitution will not preclude a non-indigenous government if sufficient indigenous people vote for it. If that occurs more coups could occur. The general belief within the region is that this is a matter for Fiji to resolve for itself. Some eyebrows were raised at the speed with which Indonesia moved to strengthen ties with Fiji following the coups. The assumption has been made that they were filling the gap left as Australia and New Zealand downgraded their links (Phesey, 1996: 26).

Papua New Guinea also appears to be susceptible to coups. The armed forces are relatively large, are frustrated with progress in Bougainville, and lack the degree of internal discipline which would keep them out of politics. Perhaps predictably, Francis Ona, rebel president of the interim government on Bougainville, has claimed that the armed forces there are completely out of control. This claim follows the implication of troops in the assassination of Bougainville premier Theodore Miriung in October and the December mortaring of a village on the island (Reuter, 6 December 1996). On the other side of the coin, if the armed forces had had more internal discipline they might have had a successful coup already.

Vanuatu has had problems with ill discipline in the armed forces. In October 1996, the paramilitary security force, the Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF) went on strike, revolted and kidnaped the President and the acting Prime Minister in a pay dispute. In November, the Vanuatu police arrested over 100 members of the VMF and a number are to be put on trial (Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October 1996; 13 November 1996). This affair will not lead to conflict within the region.

Tonga is the only other state with significant potential for instability. In this case the issue is the degree of democracy to be allowed within the state. At the moment the country is an all but absolute monarchy. There is some internal desire for greater democracy, but no inclination for it to be given. There may be significant changes following the death of the current King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, now aged 80. Whether change comes or not, there is unlikely to be any spillover into the international arena.

Although regionally inspired political instability is limited, threats to the environment and to resources may cause conflict if they impinge on the already limited ability of the states to use their resources for their own benefit. So far, such threats have been generated outside the region and, to the extent they originate from the activities of other states, have been generally contained.

In the 1980s extra-regional operators, mainly from Taiwan and Japan, introduced large scale driftnet fishing techniques which, by using walls of nets kilometres across, not only took the target catch but also all other marine fish and animals in the path of the nets. These techniques are inherently unsustainable and were a direct threat to the small scale regional fishing industry. The region was able to work together to produce the 1989 Wellington Convention which prohibits driftnet fishing within regional EEZs, and to have the UN adopt consensual resolutions to halt all driftnet fishing (MFAT, 1996: 26).(7)

In a similar vein, large scale forestry operations threaten local livelihoods and there has been only limited progress in rule creation and enforcement. The Forum has adopted draft codes of conduct on logging extraction but they are "no more than a beginning" (Alley, 1996: 55). In Melanesia, for example, local landowners have opposed foreign logging companies (mainly Malaysian and South Korean) as they use unsustainable logging practices (Phesey, 1996: 25-26). Corruption is rife, deaths have occurred and some government ministers in the Solomon Islands have appeared in court on corruption charges.

This kind of economic activity is not generally considered a threat to national security. Because of the limited size of PIC economies it may well be appropriate to consider it as such, although it will not lead to intra-regional conflict. The region will use political and legal methods rather than military ones to solve any conflicts that do arise.

Institutions, Coalition Building and Stability

The Australasian subsystem is relatively well institutionalized in terms of the number and spread of political institutions and functional organisations, although their effectiveness is limited by a lack of resources. Australia and New Zealand provide the financial and organisational underpinning for many of the institutions and organisations with Pacific Island membership, and this fact is both a strength (it means the organisations can continue to exist) and a weakness as there is an element of paternalism which, if too overt, periodically arouses resentment.

The South Pacific Forum

The most important institution is the South Pacific Forum (MFAT, 1996). It was formed in 1971 because an understanding had developed that common issues should be addressed from a regional perspective and that a collective regional voice has greater weight in international affairs than a number of independent and uncoordinated voices. The Forum consists of the independent and self-governing countries of the South Pacific. Since 1971 its membership has grown from the seven founding members to 16.(8)

Strictly, the Forum is the annual gathering of Heads of Governments of the member countries. Its methods of operation reflect many of the region's traditions and cultural practices. There are no formal rules relating to purpose, membership or conduct of meetings. At the meetings, the Forum receives reports from the permanently established Secretariat and related regional organisations and committees. These form the basis for private discussion between the leaders which ultimately leads to consensus decisions on policies and work programme goals.

Funding for the Forum's routine operations comes equally from Australia, New Zealand and the island member states. Extra-budgetary projects are funded by Australia and New Zealand, and in recent years non-regional donors such as Japan, the EU, UNDP, USAID and ECOSOC have also contributed funds, primarily to finance the Secretariat and its work.

The Forum has been instrumental in providing a focus for coordinated Pacific island activity regionally and internationally. A number of functional organisations with regional responsibilities have been established (noted in more detail below) and, as well as the international activities already discussed relating to driftnet fishing and New Caledonia, the Forum was able to play a prominent role (under the umbrella of the Association of Small Island States) in international negotiations within the UN system for the Framework Convention on Climate Change which came into force in 1994.

The Forum has had only a limited role in security issues. In 1992 it adopted a Declaration on Law Enforcement Cooperation in recognition of the threats to regional stability posed by increased criminal activity. The Declaration provides for a regional law enforcement network and sets out priorities in the areas of drugs, training and the development of legislative frameworks. In 1993 the Forum considered the issues raised in the UN Secretary General's Agenda for Peace and decided to investigate ways of cooperating with the UN, particularly through broader consultation and exchange of information.

The South Pacific Commission

The South Pacific Commission is a much older body than the Forum. It was established by the region's colonial powers (Australia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States) in 1947 and now has 26 members with the admission of independent states, self-governing territories and other territories and islands, and the withdrawal of the Netherlands and, since 1995, the United Kingdom.(9)

The Commission is non-political and confines itself to advisory and consultative activities "aimed at encouraging and promoting the economic and social development of the region" (MFAT, 1996: 18). It provides a forum for discussion of common regional problems and for seeking solutions, it attempts to develop the concept of regionalism, it attempts to attract and coordinate aid resources; it helps develop regional resources when such development is beyond the capacity of individual governments, and it develops ways to improve the flow of trade, ideas and people among the islands.

Although there has historically been some tension between the Forum and the South Pacific Commission because of a perceived overlap of roles, those tensions seem to have receded as each organisation has been able to carve out a distinct role for itself within the wider regional processes.

South Pacific Organisations Coordinating Committee

There is a range of functional organisations in the region, many established initially by the Forum or the South Pacific Commission. The South Pacific Organisations Coordinating Committee (SPOCC) acts as the centre of the network linking these diverse agencies which include: the Forum Fisheries Agency; the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme; the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission; the Pacific Islands Development Programme; the Tourism Council of the South Pacific; and the University of the South Pacific. Regular meetings of SPOCC ensure that regional networking is comprehensive and coordinated.

The range of agencies within the SPOCC network demonstrates well how institutions have grown up in the Australasian subsystem to compensate for the lack of capacity of the individual island states. These networks ensure coordination, cooperation and an overall awareness of national aims within the regional framework.

The Treaty of Rarotonga

In response to concerns about nuclear weapon proliferation and continued French nuclear testing in the region, South Pacific states developed a unified regional policy on nuclear weapons (Treaty of Rarotonga, 1985). The treaty bans the possession or storage of nuclear weapons and the dumping of nuclear waste. Visits by nuclear armed warships are at the discretion of individual states. Graham (1989: 50-52) describes the provisions of the treaty within the context of regional nuclear issues and Alley (1996: 54) notes that now scope exists for the South Pacific political community to extend the functional and geographical areas of concern relating to armaments proliferation.

The ANZUS Alliance

Military cooperation is more limited. Since 1951 Australia and New Zealand have been allied with the United States through the Australia, New Zealand and the United States (ANZUS) Treaty. The treaty was originally designed to assuage Australian and New Zealand fears of a resurgent Japan following the peace treaty with that country. Within years of its entry into force, however, ANZUS had altered its focus and had become just another in the series of security arrangements entered into by the United States with regional powers to balance against the perceived spread of Soviet and Chinese communism. ANZUS requires the partners to consult in the event of threat and to take action according to their constitutional processes.

ANZUS has never been a particularly active alliance. There is no central secretariat and no contingency planning capability. In the first twenty years the ANZUS Council (of foreign ministers) met only periodically, as much to 'brief' Australia and New Zealand on US intentions and perceptions as to exchange views (Rolfe, 1993: 44). Australia and New Zealand gave greater priority to the alliance following the withdrawal of Britain from Malaysia and Singapore in the early 1970s, and from then until 1985 regular ANZUS exercises were held between the three powers.(10) Since the 1970s and until 1984 both New Zealand and Australia considered the alliance "fundamental to their security."(11) Australia still does, but New Zealand's relationship with the United states has altered somewhat.

In 1984 New Zealand elected a new government from a party with a long history of anti-nuclear activity and a commitment to removing the concept of nuclear defence from New Zealand. When, in late 1984, the United States proposed that a warship visit New Zealand on a routine post-exercise port visit, a considerable political battle began in New Zealand. The government negotiated a visit by a clearly non-nuclear capable warship, but this was not sufficient for activist members of the government party who demanded that the United States publicly declare the non-nuclear status of the warship: a contravention of the U.S. policy of 'neither confirm nor deny' the presence of nuclear weapons. In early 1985 the government bowed to the pressure of its wider membership and decided not to accept the ship visit and then in 1986 to enshrine the policy in legislation through the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Arms Control and Disarmament Act. The United States in turn 'withdrew' its security guarantee from New Zealand, turned the ANZUS Council into a bilateral rather than trilateral forum, cut most political and military links with New Zealand, and refused to participate in multilateral exercises if New Zealand was also to participate, all apparently as an example to other countries and through fear of the 'New Zealand disease' spreading to, for example, Denmark and Japan (Rolfe, 1993: 90-97).(12)

Now, the ANZUS arrangements are essentially bilateral between Australia and the United States. Political links have been resumed between New Zealand and the United States but there are still only limited military contacts between the countries. Much of the burden of this U.S. policy has fallen on Australia which values the U.S. relationship very highly, but also recognises that New Zealand is important to it because of their shared location, values and history and because New Zealand is its only 'natural' ally.

Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand are the dominant players in the regional subsystem and they have a broad and deep set of economic, military and socio-cultural relationships which are of such quality that they allow the two countries to harmonise their policies towards the external world to a greater extent that almost any two other sovereign states. There are some practical difficulties in the relationship as would be expected between two nations with different resource bases and capacities and (slightly) different political systems. They have especially close economic and military ties through the formal processes of Closer Economic Relations (CER) and Closer Defence Relations (CDR).

Closer Economic Relations, established in 1983, is a formal treaty-based free trade area which established firm objectives for trade liberalisation to be achieved by fixed dates.(13) It replaced an earlier New Zealand Australia Free Trade Agreement which had not brought about the hoped for gains in trade expansion between the two countries, mostly because it provided for too many exceptions. CER on the other hand has been successful in establishing a comprehensive free trade zone in labour, goods and many services and there are now no tariff or quantitative barriers between the countries (Holmes, 1996). It is not unfair to argue that the lessons learnt from CER gave both countries a head start in the current global marketplace, where trade and economic deregulation are becoming the standard.

There are some outstanding non-tariff issues, such as the harmonisation of business law, which must still be addressed, but by and large CER has almost reached its practical limits. Significant further economic and trade integration would have to involve monetary union and thus the establishment of a single central bank. As this would almost certainly be in Australia, and because Australia would certainly be the dominant partner, there would be considerable resistance in New Zealand to this renunciation of one of the effective levers of economic sovereignty.

The military relationship is of considerably longer standing than the economic one, although the term Closer Defence Relations has only been used since 1991. CDR is not treaty based and does not rely on the achievement of set targets or the definition of set forms of activity. Instead, a series of official working groups and committees is charged with examining all aspects of the defence relationship to determine how greater cooperation, coordination, and harmonisation of defence activities may be achieved (Rolfe, 1995c).

These sets of relationships between Australia and New Zealand mean that those two countries could, if they wished, form a bloc capable of shaping political and security directions within the subsystem without reference to the other states in it. They do not do this. They are also looked to by those other states to provide the first line of security guarantee, especially in the case of interventions by external powers, and to provide military advice, assistance, equipment and training to them. The first possibility is one that is periodically raised as a potential problem for sub-regional cohesion. Most notably, there were fears expressed by Fiji in 1987 that Australia and/or New Zealand might act unilaterally (that is, without consulting other regional states) to support the elected government against the military coup leaders. Neither country had any serious inclination to do so, although both were concerned about the safety of their own citizens.

Regional Defence Cooperation

Both Australia and New Zealand have active bilateral cooperative relationships with all the PIC. Australia's Defence Cooperation Programme (DCP) and New Zealand's Mutual Assistance Programme (MAP) have similar aims in that they demonstrate an "underlying commitment to regional security and the maintenance of broadly based relationships with our neighbours" (NZDF, 1996: 8), and they:

foster a sense of regional security . . . the development of capabilities that can deal effectively with threats to internal security . . . foster the development of capabilities for the protection of regional maritime resources . . . and foster a regional approach to marine resource management and sovereignty protection (DOD, 1995: 5-6 and 5-7).

There is true mutual assistance in these programmes, as the island states receive military training, development assistance and maritime resource protection, and give facilities for training in tropical conditions.(14)

Antarctic Treaty Regime

Antarctica is a special case within the region. Although there may be large mineral deposits, it is an area which, under the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, states have agreed to preserve for peaceful purposes and specifically for scientific research. There are a number of claims (some overlapping) to parts of the continent, but these have been set aside under the Treaty. States are now required to avoid a range of adverse effects to the environment in any activities they undertake, and are specifically precluded from attempting to do anything with mineral resources other than research (Protocol, 1991: Art. 7).

The Treaty explicitly bans military activity:

Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only. There shall be prohibited, inter alia, any measures of a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military maneuvers, as well as the testing of any type of weapons. The present Treaty shall not prevent the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or for any other peaceful purpose (Antarctic Treaty, 1959: Art 1).

The Antarctic environment is able to provide important information about the global environment. Australia and New Zealand are committed to Antarctica as a neutralised and non-military international region in which science is the dominant activity.

Internal Cohesion

Ross (1993: 82) has concluded that:

In the late 1980s the major focus of the debate on the region's security was on whether the activities of external powers or the domestic instability of the island states was the prime cause for concern. . . . Only in retrospect has it become apparent that the interactions of the leaders of the island states had a sufficiently collaborative and consensual dynamic to moderate the outcome of developments which were appearing to undermine the region's security.

All of these institutions, de facto coalitions and relationships give the Australasian subsystem great strength. Its members meet each other regularly, national aims are broadly similar, similar world views and views on the region's needs are held, the culture is one of informality, and there is a desire to work problems through by consensus rather than conflict. When necessary, the region has been able to present a united front to the external world and its intrusions. This, then, is a region of order rather than anarchy. A system in which internal rules have been developed to allow all states a say in regional processes and to help ensure that no one state is able to dominate at the expense of others.

External Players

The Australasian region is not one in which there has been significant interest by states not in the region, although that is changing. External links are both multilateral and bilateral. Multilateral links, designed to emphasise the importance the Forum places on speaking with a collective voice, are primarily expressed through the mechanism of the Post-Forum Dialogue instituted in 1989 and modeled on the successful ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference. There are now eight dialogue partners: Canada, China, the European Union, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States, although not yet ASEAN. As well, there is a separate informal dialogue, following the formal Post-Forum Dialogue, between some Forum members and Taiwan.

Most of the dialogue partners and a number of other states have bilateral links with the sub-region of varying strengths and encompassing various interests. France has its residual territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Futuna; Britain is still the colonial power in Pitcairn Island; the United States has a residual interest through its ties with the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau; Russia, and before it the Soviet Union, has no presence in the region at all, except through embassies in Australia and New Zealand; and China has embassies in several of the smaller Pacific Island states. Since the late-1980s France and Japan have emerged as significant aid donor nations. In France's case it is an attempt to capitalise on the reduction of aid to Fiji by New Zealand and Australia following the 1987 coups, and an attempt to reduce adverse regional reaction to its nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll and to its continued possession of colonial territories in the South Pacific. In Japan's case, its entry as a significant aid donor probably has as much to do with the amount of money it has available as with any particular interest in the region.

Other states have burgeoning interests. India took a close interest in events in Fiji in 1987 during the coups which were widely seen as being aimed at the large Indian population of those islands. Although India does not have any capacity to deploy military force into the region, Fijian authorities were concerned at the possibility that India might somehow influence the course of events there.

Indonesia is more problematic. The sea gap between it and Australia is not great and Australia has habitually mistrusted Indonesia's intentions. The two countries (and New Zealand) were at war with each other during the early 1960s as Indonesia pursued its policy of Konfrontasi with the newly formed Malaysian state. In the 1990s Australia and Indonesia have worked closely together to develop their relationship. They have agreed their maritime boundaries and they have signed a security treaty. Now, the two countries have close diplomatic, political and military links and there is no sign of any particular area of tension. Indonesia also has a long land border with Papua New Guinea. The Irian Jaya Freedom Movement (OPM) operates from within PNG. This has the potential to cause friction between the two states, although that is managed at the moment through regular border coordination meetings. Residual fears remain as to Indonesia's intentions towards Papua New Guinea, although most observers discount any thought that Indonesia might use military force to gain any advantage from their common border.

Phesey (1996: 25-26) sees some disturbing trends as Southeast Asian states take a closer interests in the region. Following the 1987 coups in Fiji, Indonesia praised the new military government and built ties with it, and Malaysian economic interests are becoming active to the extent that Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea "seem to be under a new Malaysian neo-colonialist sway." It is not yet clear that this kind of interest will lead to instability or conflict. More likely, if and as potential conflict areas arise they will be managed by discussion and negotiation within existing institutions.

Conclusion: Systemic Stability and Future Directions

Bull (1977) describes contrasting Hobbesian and Grotian models of international behaviour. As described here, the Australasian subsystem bares little resemblance to the anarchical society of nations, in which such order as there is is derived through power and the use of force. The Hobbesian model describes a system in which each state is pitted against each other and in which each state is free to pursue its goals in relation to other states without moral or legal restrictions. Power, for security or for its own sake, is the motivating impulse. This behaviour is not typically seen here.

Rather, the idea of a Grotian community of nations seems a more compelling metaphor for Australasia. A community in which issues are discussed and not resolved until there is general consent. Grotians accept that states have interests and that those interests might conflict. But they limit their conflicts through the use of rules and common institutions; they are bound by imperatives of morality and law as well as by rules of prudence and expediency.

It could be that for Oceania this is because the states have no capacity to force their will on each other in any event. Australia and New Zealand present a special case in which, although military capabilities exist, in no circumstances could the use of force be considered as appropriate to resolve bilateral disputes. It seems, then, that for whatever reasons Australasia (especially Oceania) has developed as a system in which order is valued more highly than power and in which security is recognised as being derived through community rather than unilateral activity.

The Australasian subsystem is not and will not in the medium-term be a significant participant in or concern to the security affairs of Asia. Australia individually, as a regional power with a desire to be a major participant in regional processes, will continue to develop its capacity to act within the wider region, but other states, New Zealand possibly excepted, will have no capacity and no desire to affect events outside the immediate sub-region. The subsystem is likely to continue its current two-track process of development, with Australia and New Zealand continuing as part of the global economic and political community while the remaining states will generally remain economically impoverished and preoccupied with their own immediate economic concerns. Increased economic interactions between Oceania and Southeast Asia may lead to tensions as cultures clash but, in the medium term at least, the subsystem itself will remain at peace.


1 'Australasia' is often used to refer only to Australia and New Zealand, with the wider sub-region referred to as the 'South (West) Pacific' or 'Oceania' according to the needs of the writer.

2 This is despite robust debates in both Australia and New Zealand over the merits of immigration. The debates, in Australia especially, have a distinctly racist overtone which has been firmly rejected by the political elite.

3 For a discussion of the relationships in the Asia-Pacific see Harris (1995).

4 For a sceptical view of self reliance see Brown (1994).

5 Cook Islands citizens have a constitutional right to live in New Zealand.

6 For presentational purposes neither of the two larger states contributed troops to the force.

7 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NZ, (MFAT), 1996. The South Pacific Forum: Regional Cooperation at Work. Information Bulletin Number 56. Wellington: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

8 The members are: Australia; Cook Islands; the Federated States of Micronesia; Fiji; Kiribati; Nauru; New Zealand; Niue; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Republic of the Marshall Islands; Solomon Islands; Tonga; Tuvalu; Vanuatu and Western Samoa.

9 The UK will continue, however, to represent its territory of Pitcairn Island.

10 Until the British withdrawal and the almost concurrent demise of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, Australia and New Zealand focused their regional military efforts through the ANZAM (Australia and New Zealand in Malaysia) process with Britain and through SEATO. Now the link with Britain, Malaysia and Singapore is maintained through the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) which include an operational air defence system and regular air and land exercises.

11 Stated by both countries in successive defence policy White Papers.

12 It seems in 1997 that this is still the case. Recently retired security policy adviser to the Commander in Chief U.S. Pacific Command, Ralph Cossa, has been reported as saying the "U.S. still fears the spread of the 'New Zealand' disease and will not reactivate military links with the country until it changes its anti-nuclear legislation." (Christchurch Press, 2 January 1997).

13 Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Treaty Agreement (ANZCERTA, CER for short).

14 For a description of the activities undertaken, see DOD (1995: Chapter 5) and NZDF (1996: 8, 56).


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Jim Rolfe is the Associate Director of the Master of International Relations programme at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He has previously been deputy director of the New Zealand Centre for Strategic Studies and a policy adviser in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. His research interests relate to security issues in the Asia-Pacific region and New Zealand's relations with that region.
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Title Annotation:Zones of Amity, Zones of Enmity: The Prospects for Economic and Military Security in Asia
Author:Rolfe, Jim
Publication:Journal of Asian and African Studies
Date:Feb 1, 1998
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