The commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Admiral John Aquilino, made an official visit to New Zealand on Aug. 1 to expand the partnership between the two countries as tensions in the region grow following Beijing’s intentions.
“Our partnership runs very deep. We are doing many things together to continue to ensure peace and prosperity for both of our nations and for all the nations in the region,” Aquilino told reporters.
The visit to Wellington followed an earlier trip to neighbouring Sydney, where he engaged with 27 senior military leaders at the Chief of Defence Conference to discuss ways to continue the safeguarding of peace and stability in the region.
Aquilino said talks with senior New Zealand government and military leaders would similarly revolve around “understanding each other’s positions” and identifying new areas where both countries could work together and expand the partnership.
He added that Australia and New Zealand both played “critically important” leadership roles in the South Pacific region.
“The United States has been a Pacific nation our entire life. We will continue to operate in the Pacific, no matter what else you might hear,” Aquilino said. “We will operate in the areas that international law allows to preserve the peace, prosperity, and expansive relationships in the Pacific.”
Despite the small size of New Zealand’s military, Aquilino said the United States welcomed all operations with all partners, regardless of size.
“So the one thing you will never hear out of me is big or small. This is a partnership, and all nations deliver those things that they can deliver,” he said.
Beijing Highly Influential in Solomons
It follows the highly controversial military pact signed between Beijing and the Solomon Islands, sparking concerns about a potential Chinese military base on the doorsteps of Australia and New Zealand.
Recent reports have also revealed that a Chinese state-owned firm was investigating the purchase of a deep water port and World War II-era airstrip in the Solomon Islands.
By Rebecca Zhu