Backstory: NZ declares it will set China Policy, not US-Led ‘Five Eyes’

US arguments will be framed as a battle of trade over ‘human rights.’ NZ does not agree.

New Zealand says it will set China policy, not US-led Five Eyes

19 April 2021 | Staff | AJE (original link)

New Zealand will not let the United States-led Five Eyes alliance dictate its dealings with China, the Pacific nation’s foreign minister said on Monday, adding that Wellington is “uncomfortable” with expanding the remit of the intelligence grouping, which also includes the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

Nanaia Mahuta’s comments came as tensions between the US, its allies and China soar amid differences on a range of issues, including trade, technology and Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.

China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner, and Mahuta told the government-funded New Zealand China Council that Wellington wanted to chart its own course in dealings with China.

“New Zealand has been very clear … not to invoke the Five Eyes as the first point of contact on messaging out on a range of issues,” she said.

“We don’t favour that type of approach and have expressed that to Five Eyes partners.”

China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly criticised the Five Eyes alliance after all members issued a joint statement about the treatment of Hong Kong pro-democracy legislators in November.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also accused the Five Eyes last month of taking “coordinated steps to gang up on China” after Australia and New Zealand issued a joint statement condemning Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang.

In the statement, Canberra and Wellington also welcomed sanctions imposed by other Western nations on Chinese officials over the alleged abuses in Xinjiang.

Mahuta said on Monday that Wellington would not ignore Beijing’s actions if they conflicted with its commitment to universal human rights, but said the Five Eyes grouping must not stray from its scope of intelligence-sharing between member nations.

“We are uncomfortable with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes relationship,” she said. “We would much rather prefer to look for multilateral opportunities to express our interests on a number of issues.”

Mahuta’s comments indicate a growing divide on Beijing between New Zealand and partners like Australia and come just days before a planned meeting with her Australian counterpart Marise Payne.

According to Australia’s ABC broadcaster, tensions have flared between Canberra and Wellington on how to handle Beijing, “although most of the frustrations have been kept behind closed doors”.

ABC said the Australian government believes New Zealand “is undermining collective attempts to push back against increasingly aggressive behaviour from Beijing”.

Australia has recently endured a rockier relationship with China than New Zealand, with its trade minister unable to secure a call with his Chinese counterpart as Beijing imposed trade sanctions on Australian imports, including on wine and barley.

The punitive measures came after Canberra lobbied for an international inquiry into the source of the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China, and also stepped up criticism of Beijing’s crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

In contrast, China and New Zealand upgraded a free trade agreement in January and New Zealand’s Trade Minister Damien O’Connor suggested that if the Australian government “were to follow us and show respect … they too could hopefully be in a similar situation” with Beijing.

Mahuta, in remarks to the media after her speech on Monday, said Beijing and Wellington agreed their relationship was in “good shape”, but stressed that New Zealand needed to reduce its trade exposure to China.

“Resting our trade relationship with just one country, long term, is probably not the way we should be thinking about things,” she said.

“But it’s an ‘and-and’, it’s not about China or the rest, it’s about China and others.”

Five Eyes: US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand
Nine Eyes: Five Eyes + Denmark, France, Holland, Norway
Fourteen Eyes: Nine Eyes + Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain

The Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes Alliances are essentially extensions of the original Five Eyes Alliance. While these countries may not all share as much information with each other as the Five Eyes Alliance, they still actively and willingly participate in international intelligence-sharing.

In addition to these confirmed alliances, it is also worth mentioning another handful of countries that have been caught or suspected of exchanging information with the Fourteen Eyes Alliance.

22 April 2021 | Craig Mark | The Conversation (original link)

From Five Eyes to Six? Japan’s push to join the West’s intelligence alliance

As tensions with China continue to grow, Japan is making moves to join the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance. This week, Japan’s ambassador to Australia, Shingo Yamagami, told The Sydney Morning Herald he was “optimistic” about his country coming on board.

[I] would like to see this idea become reality in the near future.

This comes as New Zealand voices its concerns over using the Five Eyes process to pressure China.

What is this spy alliance? And what are the benefits and risks to bringing Japan on board?

What is the Five Eyes?

Beginning as an intelligence exchange agreement between the United States and United Kingdom in 1943, it formally became the UKUSA Agreement in 1946. The agreement then extended to Canada in 1948, and Australia and New Zealand in 1956.

This long-running collaboration has been particularly useful for sharing signals intelligence, or intelligence gathered from communications and information systems. The group’s focus has shifted over time, from targeting the USSR during the Cold War, to Islamist terrorism after the September 11 attacks in 2001, to the rising challenge from China today.

Japan’s intelligence infrastructure

There is a significant intelligence tradition in Japan. After the Meiji Restoration of the 19th century, the imperial Japanese army and navy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs developed extensive intelligence networks. These aided the rise of the Japanese empire in its wars against China, Russia and eventually the Western allies in the second world war.

After the war, Japan’s intelligence services were revamped under American supervision. Japan has since been an important base of operations for US intelligence operations in Asia, particularly by military intelligence, the CIA and the National Security Agency.

The Japanese intelligence community now comprises a range of services, including the Ministry of Defense’s Directorate for Signals Intelligence, which provides expertise in regional signals intelligence. Given Japan’s proximity to China, North Korea, and Russia, Japan may well be an attractive addition to the Five Eyes alliance.

There is also a precedence for formal intelligence sharing with the West. As well as its long-running collaboration with the US, an Information Security Agreement was signed between Australia and Japan in 2012. At the end of 2016, the US, Japan and Australia signed a similar trilateral agreement deepening the extent of covert security cooperation.

Japan’s close relationship to the US is seen in Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s visit last week to the US, the first foreign leader to be officially hosted by President Joe Biden. The talks in Washington focused heavily on China.

Previous reluctance to expand the group

While the Five Eyes group has often cooperated with the intelligence services of Japan on an ad hoc basis — as well as those of France, Germany and Israel — there has so far been reluctance among the Five Eyes members to formally broaden the alliance.

The US especially has had doubts in the past about the security and reliability of the Japanese intelligence community. In particular, this is due to concerns over its relative lack of overseas experience.

Suga was the first foreign leader to be hosted formally by President Joe Biden. AAP/AP

What About China?

Japan’s relationship with China — its neighbour and main trading partner — could potentially be a stumbling block. This relationship was managed fairly successfully under the Abe government, where the mutual benefits of trade and investment were prioritised.

This has largely continued under Suga, but more hawkish members of the government are starting to push a tougher line against China.

With the ongoing territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, and more assertive demonstrations of force by the People’s Liberation Army, relations between China and Japan have become much frostier. As Japan is on the “frontline” with China, becoming a Five Eyes member has the potential to improve its strategic position via stronger support from its alliance partners.

Leadership change in Japan?

The best prospect for Japan joining Five Eyes probably lies with cabinet minister Taro Kono. He is the minister for administrative reform, responsible for supervising Japan’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. In his previous tenure as defence minister, Kono was enthusiastically in favour of Japan joining Five Eyes.

The energetic, media-savvy and ambitious Kono is widely favoured to replace Suga as prime minister if he does not survive a vote for leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in September. An election for the lower house of the Diet (Japan’s parliament) also must be held by October.

Security environment could make the decision

A more threatening security environment overall may hasten the push towards a “Six Eyes” anyway.

This week, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police have blamed the People’s Liberation Army for organising hundreds of cyber attacks on Japanese companies, universities and government departments, including Japan’s space agency JAXA. This is certain to harden opinion against China.

If all members agree, especially with encouragement from the US, it would be fairly straightforward for Japan to formally join the Five Eyes. If the regional security environment continues to deteriorate, the declaration of a Six Eyes alliance incorporating Japan would be a clear diplomatic signal of a determination to confront China in intelligence and espionage.

Military planners from the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) member countries discuss operations during the 2011 Bersama Shield exercise in Malaysia. Photo: US Indo-Pacific Command/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Five Powers – the forgotten pact featuring NZ

22 April 2021 | Sam Sachdeva | Newsroom (original link)

While Nanaia Mahuta’s comments about the Five Eyes furore make waves at home and abroad, a lesser-known five-state grouping that includes NZ is marking its 50th anniversary

With New Zealand’s lack of military firepower well-established, it is perhaps little surprise our role in regional defence alliances gets little public attention.

That goes doubly so for an arrangement dubbed the “quiet achiever” by Australian academic Carl Thayer for its role in contributing to the security of the Asia-Pacific region with little fanfare.

The Five Power Defence Arrangements, or FDPA for short, was set up in 1971 after British forces withdrew from major military bases in Southeast Asia, with the relatively new states of Singapore and Malaysia joined in the grouping by New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Its foundations and future were the topic of discussion at a virtual event hosted by Victoria University of Wellington’s Centre for Strategic Studies.

Euan Graham, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the 50th anniversary of the pact was a good time for reflection, given its somewhat surprising longevity.

“I think many people would have been surprised in 1971 if posed that question, ‘Do you think the FDPA will still be around in 50 years?’, because at the time I think there was a sense it was a transitory set of arrangements – the word arrangements itself gives a bit of a clue.”

Graham said the agreement had been set up rapidly so Malaysia and Singapore were not left “to fend for themselves in what was at that time a pretty rough neighbourhood”, with recent war with Indonesia and ongoing conflict in Vietnam on many minds.

An additional, undeclared aim had been to ensure there were solid lines of communication between Malaysia and Singapore themselves, with a “very scratchy relationship” in the early days of their respective independence.

“Singapore started in 1971 with really very basic levels of military capability, New Zealand was still flying bombers at that time…and now the shoe’s entirely on the other foot.”

With the threat of communism a factor in the FDPA’s origins, Graham said the end of the Cold War had left a question about the nature of the arrangements, with a traditional focus on conventional warfare broadened to include anti-piracy and humanitarian work as a way of maintaining relevance.

Another outstanding question was around the respective military capabilities of the five nations, which had shifted dramatically over the past 50 years.

“It’s a five power defence arrangement, the question asked there is who is the power, where does the power lie over time?…

“Singapore started in 1971 with really very basic levels of military capability, New Zealand was still flying bombers at that time…and now the shoe’s entirely on the other foot.”

While not every nation had to “play the alpha role” in military exercises, the uneven distribution of capability added tension to what was meant to be an organisation of equal sovereign states.

“The value for New Zealand is it’s another network. and I think New Zealand punches above its weight because it maintains the networks that it does, but ultimately the price of joining a network is what you bring.”

Graham said questions had also been asked about the UK’s commitment in the past, as it allowed its defence assets to run down.

However, its status as a nuclear power added an unspoken edge to the grouping, while its recently announced “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific could also see its engagement lift with one of the only ASEAN-based organisations in which it held membership.

South China Sea looms large

China’s role in the region, in particular its territorial disputes in the South China Sea with Malaysia and a number of other countries, had added some relevance to the FDPA but brought some diplomatic risks in return (as New Zealand has discovered in the past).

Malaysia was particularly sensitive about drawing attention to state-level threats, but the group’s focus on war fighting and growing concern about the South China Sea would “insinuate itself” into the conversation.

“Implicitly that asks the question, if we’re training for war fighting then where’s the threat going to come from, given the much improved relations between the Southeast Asian states themselves?”

While there had been sporadic talk about expanding beyond Five Powers to include countries like Brunei, or broadening its focus, Graham said Malaysia and Singapore had preferred a more conservative approach given its original focus on protecting the two countries’ territories.

“I hope it avoids the Zimmer frame analogy in the next 20 years, I think it’s still got a spring in its step – maybe 50 is the new 35 after all.”

“It is a bit of a living fossil, the FDPA, and I think if you tinker with it by adding new partners or changing its functions, I think it will react badly and possibly break down.”

But Graham said the grouping needed to shed its “quiet achiever” status if it was to endure, with greater conversation about its achievements and importance to the member countries.

“It’s insufficient to assume it can just be done on a nod and understanding at the professional level between militaries – ultimately you have to have governments and ministers buying into this.”

Despite that concern, he was optimistic about the pact’s ability to endure into the next decade and beyond.

“I hope it avoids the Zimmer frame analogy in the next 20 years, I think it’s still got a spring in its step – maybe 50 is the new 35 after all.”

Australia praises ‘enduring’ Five Eyes alliance after New Zealand minister’s China comments raised eyebrows

22 April 2021 | Staff | SBS (original link)

Australia has reminded New Zealand of the importance of the Five Eyes alliance during a meeting of trans-Tasman foreign ministers.

Marise Payne met with her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta in Wellington on Thursday.

Ms Mahuta raised eyebrows ahead of the diplomatic trip by arguing the Five Eyes group should focus solely on intelligence sharing.

She does not want the network straying to other matters, such as speaking out against China for human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

Senator Payne stressed the importance of the Five Eyes alliance during the bilateral meeting.

“Australia will continue to emphasise the vital nature of the Five Eyes alliance in security and in intelligence,” she told ABC radio ahead of the meeting.

The foreign minister refused to say whether Ms Mahuta’s comments had placed a strain on the coalition.

“There is a depth of commitment in the relationship between Australia and New Zealand that is very significant,” she said.

The Five Eyes (FVEY) is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These countries are parties to the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.

“In terms of the Five Eyes, what I have found in the last year in particular and certainly in the last little while, is a very significant level of engagement across counterparts.”

However, during a joint press conference after the meeting, Senator Payne played down the starkly different approaches to the alliance between Australia and New Zealand.

She did not criticise New Zealand for its unwillingness to support moving Five Eyes “out of the shadows” and expanding its remit into public diplomacy.

“What we see in Five Eyes, which I think is very much shared across the members, is a vital strategic alliance that is key to our security and intelligence interests,” Senator Payne told reporters.

“A lot of issues with which we deal are dealt with in the shadows, but not all, and some have been able to be dealt with openly and publicly through the Five Eyes process.”

Ms Mahuta said while the five countries shared common values and principles, the alliance was primarily focused on intelligence and security.

“It’s not necessary all the time on every issue to invoke Five Eyes as your first port of call in terms of creating a coalition of support around particular issues in the human rights space,” she said.

Senator Payne said the allies could address issues of concern in whatever forum they deemed appropriate and consistent with their national interests.

“But our respect for each other – Australia, the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada – is enduring and continuing.”

At a separate media conference, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country’s relationship with the alliance had not changed.

“Five Eyes remains our most important security and intelligence partnership and that has not changed,” she told reporters.

“New Zealand also has an independent foreign policy, and that equally has not changed.”


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