The Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear told TVNZ’s Q+A programme that the relationship between the United States and New Zealand is the best it’s been in thirty years.
‘It's the best it's been in 30 years. We've had a number of high level visitors come here and try to reiterate the importance of the relationship that we have and me coming here is just another indication of the importance that we place on this partnership.’
But Admiral Locklear says we are not allies, ‘no, allies require us to have treaties. We don’t have a treaty but we are partners.’
Admiral Locklear said we need look forward.
‘I think in general, we need to look ahead and not in the past. We need to look at the future security environment that all the globe faces’
When asked whether New Zealand would be well qualified to take up a UN Security Council seat, Admiral Locklear said, ‘of course’.
‘It's important to not only to have the perspective of the large nations, but of the smaller nations that often have a unique perspective of a part of the globe. One of the things I value very much, even in our relationship, security relationship, with the Armed Forces of New Zealand, is that you all have a very unique view, a very valuable view of the South Pacific, and of this region, the Antarctic region.
‘If you extrapolate that view into the issues that the UN Security Council are dealing with, I couldn’t see why New Zealand wouldn’t be a great addition to that.’
Admiral Locklear says climate change is the biggest long-term threat to the Asia Pacific region.
‘The increasing frequency of storms, the increasing likelihood that large tsunamis would impact as we’ve seen in Aceh and we’ve seen in Japan that it will impact large population areas which will put many many people at risk and disrupt the security environment. You add to that the fact that in my area of responsibility 70 per cent of all major disasters occur here.’
He also says there will be a fight for global resources.
‘I don’t see a way out of that. The global community is going to have to figure out how to deal with regions that are becoming now arid and deserts that haven’t historically been and the fact that water supplies are becoming challenged.’
When questioned about the rising influence of China in the Asia Pacific region, Admiral Locklear said, ‘the question for the world with China will be – what leadership role they take, other than in the economic realm.
‘What is their role in the security environment? How are they leading their neighbours to good solutions and a good security environment and I think if they make good choices on that and they become leaders and they demonstrate to their neighbours the ability to be trusted and to be transparent then -as they will say to me - there’s plenty of room for everyone to operate here in the Pacific.’
Asked whether China can be trusted now, Admiral Locklear said, ‘I think trust is a word I wouldn’t apply too broadly.’
‘I would say that as far as our bilateral relationship, that we are based on the dialogue between our President and President Xi that we are in the process of developing an improved bilateral relationship, then that trust underlies that.’
‘Trust requires that we talk, that we work together, that we understand each other, that there’s a level of transparency and we’re not there yet but we’re working on it.’