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New Zealand military ‘not in a fit state’, government says

New Zealand economy tips into recession
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New Zealand’s military is beset with problems and not prepared for future challenges, the government acknowledged on Friday as it set out a roadmap to revamp the country’s armed forces.

Facing basic problems of ageing equipment and difficulties recruiting personnel, the South Pacific nation’s roughly 15,000-strong defence force “is not in a fit state to respond to future challenges”, according to policy review documents.

The withering assessment will be presented by the country’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Defence Minister Andrew Little on Friday.

According to key findings, New Zealand’s military is designed for a “relatively benign strategic environment” rather than a Pacific region replete with climate-fuelled challenges and intense strategic competition between China and the West.

In response, the government will argue that New Zealand needs to invest in a “combat-capable” force that can help safeguard the country’s interests in the region.

It will also encourage more public debate on national security challenges, with the government being more “upfront” about such issues.

As well as its own defence, New Zealand is responsible for the defence of Tokelau, the Cook Islands and Niue, all small Pacific nations, but its only formal ally is its much larger neighbour Australia.

It also works closely, however, with countries throughout Asia and is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network alongside Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

These relationships are sometimes complicated by New Zealand’s reliance on China, its top trading partner, and Wellington has at times been criticised for not calling out Beijing’s activities as strongly as some of its partners.

While the strategy documents said the relationship with China is “significant” to New Zealand, they also said Beijing has been trying to increase its influence in the Pacific “at the expense of more traditional partners such as New Zealand and Australia”.

“An increasingly powerful China is using all its instruments of national power in ways that can pose challenges to existing international rules and norms.

“Beijing continues to invest heavily in growing and modernising its military, and is increasingly able to project military and paramilitary force beyond its immediate region, including across the wider Indo-Pacific.”

New Zealand said it will seek to lift its presence in the Pacific, become the partner of choice for Pacific nations and help to build resilience to security and climate-related threats in the region.

According to prepared remarks, defence minister Little will say: “The changes in the domestic and international security environment mean our response and preparedness must change too.”

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