A neutral New Zealand

NZ has an anti-nuclear stance which derives from a Labour led campaign against nuclear propulsion and weapons.  In fact, we have legislated to make New Zealand a ‘nuclear free zone’ – New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987.
In 1987 Labour passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act. In a largely symbolic act, the United States Congress retaliated with the Broomfield Act, downgrading New Zealand’s status from ally to friend. David Lange stated that if the security alliance was the price New Zealand must pay to remain nuclear-free, ‘it is the price we are prepared to pay’. In 1989, 52% of New Zealanders indicated that they would rather break defence ties than admit nuclear-armed ships

My question is this: If NZ are sincerely against nuclear weapons, why do we provide support to the US whom we know has nuclear weapons and has explicitly declared that they will use these weapons against nations who fail to abide by the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Additionally, the US were the intiators of having such a Treaty yet they themselves have failed to comply with its terms. NPT signatories are “not supposed to build and maintain such weapons in perpetuity. Article VI of the treaty holds that each state-party is to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament” (see: http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat)
The US has nuclear weapons and continues to maintain and modify them citing the reason is to provide reassurance to their allies and friends against any potential nuclear attacks from other nations.

The worry is that recent reports indicate that the US and Israel are preparing to go to war with Iran. We cannot rule out that these countries will not use nuclear weapons during combat, since this will depend on whether or not the US determine that Iran is in breach of the NPT (since Iran is a signatory to that treaty). Such a tactic would not come as a surprise to some critics of the US who suggest that there is evidence nuclear weapons were used in both Iraq and Afghanistan. (See: http://pakconnects.blogspot.co.nz/2011/11/nuclear-terrorism-usage-of-tactical.html)
My point is this: NZ prides itself on many things – but one area in which a significant majority of NZ are united is our anti-nuclear stance. It is hypocritical then, that our government would provide support to a military agenda that would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in future wars (despite the fact that the US are a signatory to that treaty). Also remember that the US expelled NZ from the ANZUS treaty for not allowing the USS Buchanan to enter our waters because the US would not declare if it had nuclear weapons on board. Notwithstanding that the US were well aware of NZ’s stance and used this occasion to test the policy, which resulted in a political tantrum analogous to the behaviour of a two year old denied a lollipop. Our government is doing all the groundwork, and making the sacrifices to improve diplomatic relations between NZ and the US even though it was the US government who disrespected our democratic stance on anti-nuclear policy.  

My concluding remarks are that NZ ought to declare itself a neutral state. This does not amount to disbanding our own defence forces. The Swiss and Japanese are clear examples of neutral states that have retained a defence force, and international law does not prevent a neutral state from resisting attempts by belligerent militaries to invade a neutral territory. 

NZ becomes nothing more than a hypocritical backwater if it continues to support the US in its military crusade for global domination. The time for neutrality is now.  


  1. NZ is a hypocritical backwater, that was in fact a large part of the opposition's argument @ the Oxford Union Debate where Lange so famously solidified the nation's stance on nuclear issues. Our continued relations with the United States need not be seen as a subscription to their values or choice of arms; a realist might argue that we're only 'in it for ourselves'.Why open ourselves up to the risk of losing valuable trade relationships with our traditional allies or 'friends' in order to fancifully declare ourselves 'neutral'? In effect, we already are a neutral country; with token commitments to Afghanistan and some U.N. involvement. No real gain will come from New Zealand taking a 'holier-than-thou' stance on the world stage. We are a tiny little economy, almost completely dependent on the benevolence of Big Finance and foreign investment in order to keep us ticking over. So long as our domestic practices are reflective of an undervaluation of the environment, we should not seek to grandstand and leave ourselves open to the scrutiny of other states. A severance of formal ties with the United States (I assume that declaration of neutrality would require or force this) is likely to have an adverse effect on our economic arrangements therewith and would not be responsible given the current state of the global economy.


  2. The argument that neutrality would have an adverse effect on our economy is an incredibly weak justification for committing NZ to future wars. I’m not sure many New Zealander’s would accept that it were okay for their son, daughter, brother, sister, father, mother and so on to participate in wars and to risk their lives for the benefit of NZ’s economic relations with the US. If the US were to sever ties with NZ because the democratic will of the people demanded neutrality, in my opinion this is not to dissimilar from extortion.Additionally, I’m yet to hear any arguments from China that suggest they would sever economic ties with NZ if we refused to go to war as their allies, in fact, I’ve heard suggestions to the contrary, that China place a high value on NZ’s independence in the international arena.


  3. In light of the long-defunct ANZUS agreement, it is logical to suppose that China would value our 'neutrality', if the alternative is a reestablished formal alliance. NZ has supported multi-lateral deployments overseas, such as in Afghanistan, which involved nuclear states. IMO National-led govt wouldn't have the popular or parliamentary support to enter a new conflict unilaterally with the US, even in peace-keeping role as with Afghanistan.


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