New Zealand’s Defence Minister Peeni Henare said he expects the New Zealand Navy to join the HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden voyage through the Indo-Pacific, including through the South China Sea.
China is continuously attempting to assert dominance over the South China Sea through coercive methods, including constructing military installations on islands built on atolls and threatening nearby nations like Vietnam and the Philippines. The communist regime is also currently amidst a territorial dispute with Japan over islands located in the East China Sea.
During a 2020 Defence Force briefing, Mr Henare was reportedly advised that the Pacific was a strategic concern for New Zealand. The area is also a target for the Communist Chinese Party (CCP).
The NZ Defence Minister expects New Zealand to join the United Kingdom carrier strike group in its Pacific and East Asia voyage. He added that the NZ Navy might also participate in visits to Japan and South Korea.
“When I spoke with my counterpart in the UK, we had indicated, despite the Covid restrictions, our willingness to play our part,” Mr Henare stated.
The Defence Minister also revealed New Zealand plans to sail with the flotilla through the Indo-Pacific.
“We’ve made it clear that we’re naturally at home in the Pacific, and we look to support the work that they’re doing. . . We’re certainly committed to that,” he said.
“We do have to go through a process to approve that through Cabinet, and also to make sure that our personnel are safe because of Covid-19.”
The HMS Queen Elizabeth is set to lead a carrier strike group, including the United States and Dutch navy vessels, on a tour of 40 countries. She is expected to reach India, East Asia, and the Pacific in late 2021. The British flagship aircraft carrier left Portsmouth, England, on Sunday.
Laura Clarke, the UK High Commissioner to New Zealand, stated in her speech last month that Britain was open to offering its defence capabilities to take on security challenges and uphold freedom of navigation and international law in the Indo-Pacific.
“We will work closely together with other like-minded countries in responding to the systemic challenge that China poses to our security, prosperity and values,” Ms Clarke said.
The NZ Navy would also collaborate with the British Navy in a Five Powers Defence Arrangement exercise. The exercise is intended to be conducted around Malaysia’ east coast in October 2021.
This event will be the 50th anniversary of the Five Powers Defence Arrangement, comprised of Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain.
An NZ Defence Force spokeswoman stated the HMNZS Te Kaha, HMNZS Aotearoa, a P-3 Orion aircraft, and 25 staff officers would participate in the military exercise. She added the activity would improve the cooperation between the Five Powers’ military forces.
Stuff. (May 4, 2021). New Zealand navy will join British flotilla on tour through East Asia, defence minister says.