New Zealand is deepening its Defence relationships in the Pacific through establishing a resident Defence Adviser in the Kingdom of Tonga, announced Defence Minister Ron Mark.
“New Zealand has a longstanding defence relationship with Tonga, dating back to World War I, when Tongan citizens served in the Māori and Regular Battalions in the New Zealand Army,” said Ron Mark.
“Our close and multi-faceted defence partnership, which was recognised in the Statement of Partnership that we signed with Tonga last year, is underpinned by these historical ties and strong people-to-people links.
“Our nation’s security and wellbeing are intrinsically bound to the peace and stability of the Pacific. Together, we face dynamic and intensifying regional security challenges, including the impacts of climate change, transnational organised crime, and resource competition.”
New Zealand’s Pacific Reset, announced in March 2018, responded to such regional challenges with a lift in New Zealand’s strategic ambition and investment in the Pacific.
“The Reset represents a commitment to building deeper partnerships with Pacific Island countries and other key partners and institutions in the region. If we are to deliver on that commitment, our people need to be present in the region, to better understand our partners’ priorities,” said Ron Mark.
“Establishing a Defence Adviser in Tonga will support our Pacific Leader Development Programme and other bilateral training activities. It will also enable better coordination of operational activities in support of Tonga, as we most recently saw when Tropical Cyclone Harold passed over Tonga in May.”
Tonga was formerly supported by a Defence Adviser based in Suva. The resident Defence Adviser, who will commence later this year, is joining an existing overseas network of Attachés and Advisers from the New Zealand Defence Force who represent New Zealand overseas. In the South Pacific, New Zealand also has Defence Advisers resident in Fiji and Papua New Guinea.