New Zealand welcomes the opportunity provided by the Annual Security Outlook to make known its views on regional security. The regional and international security situation has been overshadowed, since the last ARF Ministerial Meeting, by the threat of terrorism disrupting global peace and stability. ARF participants have an important role to play in ensuring this threat does not disturb the complex pattern of security interactions in our region.
Developments in the region over the past year
New Zealand believes that the Asia-Pacific region is currently enjoying a period of relative stability, remarkable given the complex and varied nature of the region's political, economic, religious, ethnic and social fabric. Our region has been buffeted by military and ideological conflicts, suffered severe economic and financial shocks, confronted significant environmental and developmental challenges and seen an upsurge in transnational criminal activities. There are a number of fault lines along which friction could develop, and it is important for the region to be aware of these and remain vigilant. Closer engagement and stable relations between constituent parts of the region is the key to political and military stability in the Asia-Pacific.
In contrast to the situation in some other parts of the world, the security situation in this region remains more or less stable. There are currently no
significant conflicts between participants of the ARF. The relations between major powers are stable and form the backdrop to our regional security
situation. Joint efforts in the int.ernational campaign against terrorism and the recent signature of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty have been
important in contributing positively to cooperative major power relations. Some areas of our region, such as East Timor and the South China Sea, have experienced tension or conflict in recent years but they are now calm. Elsewhere, in the Southwest Pacific and Indonesia for example, tensions still require careful management to avoid undermining stability.
Although the region is stable, there is no room for complacency. This year has seen a serious conflict just beyond the borders of the ARF region. A number of ARF participants, including New Zealand, have been involved either directly or indirectly in the military campaign against the Taliban and al Qa'eda in Afghanistan. A political process has been identified and implemented to re-establish a viable state in that country, but the security situation is by no means conclusively settled. The conflict has the potential to play unhelpfully into the tense situation in South Asia, where hostilities could have serious consequential effects for stability in the ARF region. There is evidence in the ARF region of activity by terrorist groups and groups with links to terrorist organisations outside the region. Close cooperation is required among countries in our region to ensure that terrorism is not allowed to take hold and fuel internal conflict or conflicts between states.
New Zealand believes that the ARF provides an important forum for collective security in the Asia-Pacific. It enables countries to exchange views col1ectively on regional and international issues of concern and to engage in confidence building activities that are designed to increase political confidence among countries in the region. The ARF also provides a forum for consideration of practical measures to address terrorism and other transnational issues that represent the new security challenges the world faces.
Current regional issues
The ARF exchange of views on regional and international security has over the past twelve months focused on a number of important. issues, many of which are still of current interest in the region.
New Zealand sees the stability of Northeast Asia as a crucial underpinning for the stability of our whole region. The stability of relations between the major powers has allowed the region to focus constructively on the situation on the Korean peninsula, a key element of Northeast Asian security. The whole region has an interest in the resumption of dialogue between the DPRK and ROK, and the prospect of this happening following the visit to Pyongyang by ROK's presidential envoy is a welcome development. It is important too that the DPRK resume dialogue with both the United States and Japan. New Zealand remains committed to international efforts to underpin peace and stability on the Korean peninsula through KEDO, and has continued to provide financial support for this initiative. New Zealand welcomes the engagement of the DPRK in the region's multilateral security process. New Zealand established diplomatic relations with the DPRK in 2001.
In Southeast Asia, an important underpinning for regional peace and security is stability in Indonesia. New Zealand strongly supports Indonesia's transition to democracy. The success of that country's economic reform programme and peaceful resolution of its internal conflicts will be key elements for the peace and prosperity of the whole nation.
New Zealand is pleased to see East Timor complete its formal transition to independent nationhood. East Timor has had to rebuild itself from the ground up, and the task of nation building that lies ahead is a daunting one. Reducing the size of the refugee population on the border will continue to be important to minimise the possibility of resurgence of a militia threat to East Timor's border area. Close and positive links with its neighbours will be important. The international community has demonstrated its commitment to the future of East Timor, and continuing engagement in the post- independence period will be necessary. New Zealand looks forward to East Timor participating in regional affairs.
New Zealand has followed with close interest the progress being made by the government in Myanmar towards re-establishing dialogue Aung San Ssu Kyi and the National League for Democracy. The release of some detainees, as well as visits by the UN Special Envoy Razali, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, and a high-level team from the ILO are all signs of progress. Further improvements are needed in Myanmar in human rights and bigger steps towards substantive political dialogue with the opposition and towards democratic governance.
New Zealand believes that conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully and through contact between the parties involved. New Zealand takes no position o-n these territorial claims but believes it is important to maintain freedom of navigation in these significant international shipping lanes. Progress towards a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea will guarantee continuing stability in that area.
The Southwest Pacific has experienced unsettling internal conflicts. New Zealand continues to have concerns about long-term prospects for peace and stability. The region is subject to considerable stress as a result of land ownership disputes, ethnic tensions, widening socio-economic disparities and governance failures. We are working with countries in the Southwest Pacific to assist them to develop lasting solutions. New Zealand has urged Fiji to rebuild its political institutions in a way that ensures full participation in the political process by all ethnic groups. New Zealand and others have lent support to the peace process in Solomon Islands by participating in the International Peace Monitoring Team. That country faces a crisis of law and order which is undermining efforts at economic survival. In the Bougainville Province of Papua New Guinea, passage of the Bougainville Peace Agreement provides for autonomous government on the island and eventually a referendum on the island's political future. That is subject to a weapons disposal agreement being complied with and that being verified by the United National Observer Mission on Bougainville.
Transnational issues have continued to pose threats to stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region. The ARF has provided an important forum for the discussion of the threat posed by terrorism, and the ARF confidence building agenda now includes a number of concrete counter-terrorism measures. The nexus between terrorism and transnational crime has also been a focus of attention. The ARF has looked at transnational crimes such as money laundering, drug trafficking, cyber crime, illegal trade in small arms, piracy and illegal migration. It is important that ARF activities in this area continue to complement processes already under way in the region to deal with these threats.
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is an ongoing threat to our region. Prospects for disarmament are uncertain. It is essential that the international community renew its efforts in the field of disarmament and non- proliferation relating to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, especially given possible access to WMD by terrorists. New Zealand is concerned about any actions that have the potential to undermine the multilateral nuclear disarmament agenda or lead to a new nuclear arms race. New Zealand hopes that dialogue between the United States, Russia and China on missile defence will minimise any such impact. Combating the spread of missile technology will require stronger application of the treaty regimes on weapons of mass destruction, strict controls on access to missile technologies and concerted efforts to roll back programs in countries of concern.
New Zealand contributions to regional and international security
New Zealand has continued its commitment- to the multilateral security .process and to playing a role in the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. New Zealand has been an active participant in the international campaign against terrorism through its contributions in Afghanistan to Operation Enduring Freedom and to the International Security Assistance Force. New Zealand continues to be actively involved in UNTAET, as well as providing military and other assistance in Bougainville and the Solomon Islands. New Zealand commits military personnel to a total of thirteen UN and other multilateral peacekeeping and demining missions. New Zealand's military resources are being enhanced to ensure that it is able to continue playing an active role in preserving regional and international peace and security.