New Zealand - Foreign policy

New Zealand became independent from the United Kingdom on 26 September 1907. Although the 1931 Statute of Westminster granted equal status to all members of the Commonwealth, independent New Zealand's foreign policy dates from 1935, when the Labor government made treaties and exchanged diplomatic representatives. In 1943 the government established a career foreign service.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is responsible on behalf of the government for all major policy functions related to New Zealand's external relations, including bilateral relations with other countries, interests in international institutions, official development assistance, provision of consular services, and support services to government agencies overseas. The Honorable Phil Goff is the minister of foreign affairs and trade under PM Clark.

New Zealand maintains 49 diplomatic and consular posts in 41 countries and territories and was a founding member of the United Nations (UN) in 1945. New Zealand maintains interests in other international organizations: the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, as a member of the Commonwealth, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), among others.

New Zealand also administers Tokelau, made up of three small atolls in the South Pacific—Atafu, Fakaofo, and Nukunonu. Self-government and self-sufficiency are New Zealand's objectives for its relationship with the Tokelau population of around 1,500. New Zealand also takes on external affairs and defense functions for the Cook Islands and Niue.

Since 1923 New Zealand has exercised jurisdiction over the Ross Dependency, comprised of the land, permanent ice-shelf, and islands of Antarctica. Scott Base on Ross Island is preserved by New Zealand as a permanent scientific research base. Other than these researchers, Ross Dependency is an uninhabited ice-covered land.

Prime Minister Helen Clark's government vigorously supports nuclear disarmament. New Zealand nuclear disarmament policy includes forging strong alliances with other non-nuclear states; building cooperation between nuclear weapon free zones, and strengthening New Zealand's Nuclear Free Zone in the South Pacific. With this non-nuclear policy, Clark's party put an end to bilateral military ties with the United States in 1986 through an agreed-upon suspension of the 1951 ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States) defense treaty. In February 2002, however, Clark met in Washington, D.C., with U.S. president George W. Bush, in part to offer strong support for the U.S.-initiated War on Terror, which began in Afghanistan. The War on Terror came in response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 that targeted the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the World Trade Center in New York. Clark's Washington visit marked the first official NZLP leader meeting with a U.S. president since 1986.

The Clark government continues to express New Zealand's opposition to Japanese whaling. Clark questions whether Japanese whaling is conducted for the "scientific research" purposes upheld by the international Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Clark continues to oppose the program at meetings of the International Whaling Commission.

As a Labor leader, Clark questions excessive military defense spending. In 1999, she advocated the position suggested by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Select Committee that New Zealand should build its future defense capacity around the core role of the army. In 2001, Clark led a controversial initiative designed to entirely disband New Zealand air combat forces within five years, rather than designate funds to upgrade their capabilities. The initiative does, however, include NZ $300 million to enhance surveillance and airlift capabilities.

Furthermore, Clark was severely critical of the previous government's relationship with Indonesia over Indonesia's actions in East Timor. Clark urged fellow leaders of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations to work together to resolve the East Timor crisis; East Timor achieved independence in 2002.

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