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Old Friends, New Challenges: New Zealand and the United States in the Asia-Pacific Century

New Zealand has been a strong supporter of the Six Party Talks on North Korea. We are all aware of how difficult this process has been. The action plan announced after the last Round is an encouraging first step along the way to our goal of full denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. New Zealand will support the action plan in whatever practical way it can at the appropriate time.

9/11, the Bali bombings, and other terrorist crimes around the world have underscored the risks posed by even small groups of extremists, including in South East Asia. New Zealand has been seeking to address the threat of terrorism by helping authorities in the region build their capacity to respond. We have also embarked on longer-term approaches such as promoting dialogue amongst religious leaders of many faiths.

As a small country, New Zealand benefits from participation in multilateral institutions—and there are a number to relate to in the Asia Pacific.

Our oldest regional relationship is with ASEAN, of which we have been a dialogue partner for more than thirty years.

ASEAN itself has been busy building networks, through its Plus Three relationship with China, Japan, and Korea, and has now brought those partners together with India, Australia, and New Zealand to form the East Asia Summit.

New Zealand was pleased to be included as a founding member at the first EAS, held in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005. We see its potential as both a forum for annual strategic dialogue, and as a vehicle to advance regional co-operation and integration. At the second Summit in the Philippines earlier this year, Leaders had a useful discussion on a number of key regional issues, including energy security. New Zealand hopes the East Asia Summit will contribute to building closer regional ties and a stronger East Asia community.

The establishment of the East Asia Summit has prompted some to raise a question mark about the place of APEC in the regional architecture. New Zealand does not see the two groupings as necessarily competing against one another, any more than, say, the Organisation of American States competes with APEC. Each has its own distinctive value. Asia trades more with external partners than it does amongst itself. APEC's trans-Pacific membership gives it a geo-political and economic importance all of its own—not least because APEC includes the United States.

New Zealand and the U.S. have always co-operated closely on APEC issues, and we welcome the strong U.S. commitment to the organisation. At last year's APEC Summit, the U.S. supported developing the concept of a Free Trade Agreement of the Asia-Pacific, which could reinvigorate some of APEC's original goals. Parallel to that the EAS has also decided to conduct a study into an EAS-wide FTA.

While working together on Asia Pacific regionalism is an important part of the New Zealand-U.S. bilateral relationship, there are many other dimensions to our friendship.

We both count amongst the world's oldest democracies, and the strong pioneering tradition of our two countries continues in the open, innovative societies we enjoy today. Embedded in our belief systems is the view that everyone deserves a fair go and opportunity to get ahead, regardless of their ethnicity, culture, faith, or socio-economic status. Those shared values matter.

We have fought alongside each other in virtually every major international conflict from and including the First World War. New Zealand took a different position on the invasion of Iraq. But we share the hope that peace and a better life will eventually prevail in that troubled land where so many Iraqis, Americans, and others have died.

Nor can New Zealand ever forget the United States support in the South Pacific in the Second World War, when so many young Americans came to New Zealand en route to battle on land and sea and in the air. Wellingtonians still remember the great armada of United States Marine transports departing in 1942. We didn't know where they were headed; but it turned out to be Guadalcanal—the pivotal U.S. victory on land in the Pacific and one of the war's momentous turning points.