RIMPAC Deployment Highlights New Zealand’s Hypocrisy – Peace Movement Aotearoa


Multiple conflicts with NZ’s stated commitment to nuclear disarmament, the rules-based order, international law, and human rights

While New Zealand politicians regularly condemn militarisation of the Pacific, here they are once more contributing to it as New Zealand armed forces join the world’s largest maritime live-firing war games – Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) – in and around Hawai’i. According to the military blurb, this is so “New Zealand assets and personnel can test themselves alongside some of the best in the world”, and be part of “a sharing of cultures”.

RIMPAC 2024 comprises 40 warships, 3 submarines, 14 national “land forces” (army / Special Forces), more than 150 military aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel from 29 nations; and there are many good reasons why New Zealand should not be part of this destructive biennial invasion of Hawai’i.

RIMPAC is a series of full-scale combat assaults on land and sea: sacred sites are destroyed through live gunfire and mortar-fire, helicopter assault landings, tracked and other military vehicles, and the pounding boots of thousands of soldiers; coastal and reef areas are damaged by high-speed amphibious assault vehicles; the marine environment is ravaged by missiles, torpedoes and naval guns with devastating impacts on sea creatures, including marine mammals and bird life; and there is contamination by fuel and other hazardous leaks, as well as unexploded ordnance left behind on land and in the ocean.

The influx of large numbers of foreign military personnel also raises serious concerns around the health and safety of women and girls in particular, with the Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women specifically referring to RIMPAC as a significant violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking risk in the past, and Hawaiian community groups putting together an updated Community Safety Toolkit for RIMPAC 2024.

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By joining RIMPAC again, New Zealand is ignoring the voices of Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) who have opposed it for many years, and is perpetuating militarised colonisation while contributing to toxic pollution and destruction of the environment, harming marine and other life, increasing New Zealand’s climate-destroying emissions and wasting non-renewable resources.

According to the NZDF, “The purpose of RIMPAC is to engage in mutual, large-scale military exercises to foster familiarity, trust, interoperability and collective strength among Pacific nations. This means the navies of friendly nations get used to working together.”

This statement is problematic on a number of levels, beginning with the fact that only three Pacific island nations have armed forces (Fiji, PNG, and Tonga, plus Vanuatu has a paramilitary force) – none of them are part of RIMPAC 2024 so clearly trust, interoperability etc is not being fostered with them.

Furthermore, Pacific leaders have repeatedly stated that the escalating climate emergency is the single biggest security threat to the region, but New Zealand continues to ignore that in favour of ever-increasing combat capability: day to day military activities, including “exercises” such as RIMPAC, are exacerbating catastrophic climate change, with military emissions estimated to be at least 5.5% of the global total.

So who exactly are the “friendly nations” New Zealand is fostering familiarity, trust, interoperability and collective strength with, and how does this relate to New Zealand’s stated commitment to nuclear disarmament, rules-based order, international law, and human rights?

As well as the many other issues around RIMPAC, there’s also the matter of the 1987 NZ Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act with its prohibition on New Zealanders aiding and abetting those possessing or having control of nuclear weapons: RIMPAC 2024 again includes the armed forces of five nuclear weapons states – Britain, France, India, Israel and the US.

We have not forgotten that three of those states – Britain, France and the US – detonated more than 300 nuclear bombs in the region causing immeasurable harm to the health and wellbeing of Pacific peoples and extensive ongoing radioactive contamination of the environment, and here they are still destroying the Pacific with their harmful military activities – with New Zealand’s support.

New Zealand often states its commitment to the rules-based order, international law, and human rights, and its recently released Disarmament Strategy – “to achieve a safer and more secure world, free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, where international humanitarian law is respected and civilians in conflict zones are protected from harm” – has ‘Defending International Humanitarian Law and the Protection of Civilians’ as one of its three priorities.Yet the RIMPAC participants list again includes Israel, not only a nuclear-armed state but also a state whose behaviour is clearly totally inconsistent with the rules-based order, international law, and respect for human rights. As RIMPAC begins, Israel is in breach – among other things – of four Provisional Measures Orders of the International Court of Justice, the highest world court and arbiter of international law, in relation to the Genocide Convention.The recent Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel outlines multiple ongoing gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by Israel during its “widespread and systematic attack directed against the civilian population in Gaza”, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and more.

There is an obligation on state parties to the Genocide Convention, including New Zealand, to act to prevent genocidal behaviour – yet Israel is included among the “friendly nations” New Zealand armed forces are now happily fostering familiarity, trust, interoperability and collective strength with.

In addition, RIMPAC 2024 participants include Indonesia, engaged in a brutal military occupation of West Papua since 1962; France, another nuclear-armed state, which occupies and has military bases in Mā’ohi Nui (French Occupied Polynesia) and Kanaky (New Caledonia) where it is currently rounding up Kanak leaders and transporting them 16,985 km to detention in France; and other states that are engaged in a range of human rights violations.

When asked why New Zealand is part of RIMPAC 2024, Defence Minister and Attorney General Judith Collins has said that the US is responsible for the invitations (! as though New Zealand has no choice but to be there?), and that New Zealand is really fortunate to be part of it.

If, like us, you are appalled by the startling level of hypocrisy inherent in New Zealand’s ongoing involvement in RIMPAC, please share your views with Defence Minister Judith Collins, J.Collins@ministers.govt.nz Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, W.Peters@ministers.govt.nz Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, C.Luxon@ministers.govt.nz and your local MP – all MPs contact details are available at https://www.parliament.nz/en/mps-and-electorates/members-of-parliament/References


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