Against the backdrop of Jacinda Ardern’s recent trip to Washington DC cementing further military cooperation with the US, Indigenous and peace groups are demanding that the NZDF completely withdraw from participation in the US Navy’s upcoming “Rim of the Pacific” (RIMPAC) live combat training during July-August 2022 with the launch a new campaign.
RIMPAC is a maritime warfare exercise based in and around Hawai’i used to demonstrate US domination and control of the Pacific Ocean. It happens every two years. It includes 20+ other nations, 25,000 troops and thousands of weapons.
The NZDF is sending 78 soldiers from the HMNZS Matataua and the Army’s 16 Field Regiment as well as the Navy vessel HMNZS Aotearoa.
“RIMPAC pretends to promote safety all the while perpetuating harm, destruction, and violence. These military war games are an assault against Kānaka Maoli and other Pacific peoples whose lands and waters have long been used as sacrifice zones and whose lives have been dismissed and disregarded. New Zealand has an opportunity to set a new standard by withdrawing from RIMPAC. To do so would be to prioritise care, environmental protection, and the right of Pacific and Indigenous peoples to self-determination,” said Dr Emalani Case, member of the Cancel RIMPAC Coalition.
Coalition member Marco de Jong adds, “The superpower scramble for influence is jeopardising peace in the Pacific. Polarising rhetoric, reactionary diplomacy, and wargames only prompt escalation. New Zealand must maintain principled distance and contribute to the alternative security vision held by other Pacific nations. This is centred on climate response and socio-economic resilience as outlined in the Boe and Biketawa Declarations. We must contribute to the rebuilding of Pacific regionalism lest superpowers divide and conquer to the detriment of all.”
“An independent and Indigenous foreign policy, marshalled in service of Pacific regionalism is powerful. Remember that New Zealand draws its international standing from its place and influence in the Pacific. Playing American lapdog is equivalent to authoritarian apologist and jeopardises NZ interests. By contributing to the rebuilding of Pacific regionalism—in ways consistent with regional priorities, our Pacific identity, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi—we have our last and best chance to fulfil our diplomatic potential as Aotearoa.”
During RIMPAC, deadly weapons are used on land and sea causing massive environmental destruction to the Hawaiian Islands and the Pacific Ocean. The live fire training involves shelling islands; using bombs and missiles to sink ships, leaving ammunition, debris and wreckages in the sea; and detonating underwater explosives. The US Navy is exempt from the Marine Mammal Protection Act meaning it can test underwater sonar weapons that kill and injure whales, dolphins and other species. The US military is also the world’s largest single user of fossil fuels and exercises like this have a massive carbon footprint.
“New Zealand has the chance now to exercise independent foreign policy and be a Pacific partner and a model for other countries by choosing not to participate in 2022. In 1982 New Zealand withdrew from RIMPAC activities. We can do it again,” said Mr de Jong.
“We believe in a free and independent Pacific. We believe in a Pacific that is free of colonialist & imperialist violence; and free of the constant threat of military harm and imminent war. Until this is realised for all people of the Pacific and for all people of this world, our stance and intentions remain unchanged. We call for the cancellation of RIMPAC and for the complete eradication of all war and military violence in our lands and waters. We stand in support and echo the demands of our siblings across the Pacific, and implore all members of our communities to join the struggle for a Pacific free of war and colonial violence,” said Tāwhana Chadwick from IPU: Indigenous Pacific Uprising and a Coalition member.
The Cancel RIMPAC coalition includes IPU: Indigenous Pacific Uprising, Te Kuaka – NZ Alternative, Peace Movement Aotearoa, Peace Action Wellington, Auckland Peace Action, Aotearoa Philippines Solidarity and social justice activists.
Over 1,700 New Zealanders have already signed a petition in the last two years demanding the government not send troops, this year or in future, to this large-scale military exercise.