Discussion paper

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula: implications for New Zealand

International relations Defence New Zealand

Introduction: New Zealand’s bilateral relationship with South Korea is founded on strong political, economic and security links that date back to the Korean War. New Zealand responded to the United Nations Security Council’s call for members of the United Nations to assist South Korea in 1950 with a substantial commitment of Defence personnel that on a per capita basis exceeded that, for example, of Australia.
Not only did this response signal New Zealand’s support for the United Nations, it was also to realise the objective of securing a security commitment from the United States in the event of further aggression from Japan. That commitment was embodied in the ANZUS Treaty signed in June 1951.

How times have changed. New Zealand has a wide-ranging relationship with Japan that, whaling apart, is close and friendly. New Zealand did not recognise the People’s Republic of China at the time of the Korean War, but our relationship has rapidly developed to the point where China is now vital to our economic prosperity. We are no longer a full alliance partner of the United States, although the signature in June 2012 of the Washington Declaration on Defence Cooperation between the United States and New Zealand will undoubtedly have created expectations in Washington, and in some other capitals, of support from New Zealand, particularly in respect of Asia/Pacific security challenges.

This paper examines recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, including the responses of China and the United States, and considers the implications for New Zealand. It then proposes a way ahead. But before doing so it provides some background comment on the Armistice, the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission known as UNCMAC, and the Six Party Talks.

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