No Minister

Archive for the ‘Solomon Islands’ Category

CHICKEN’S COMING HOME TO ROOST

with 26 comments

Seems most New Zealanders prefer a head in the sand approach to what it happening in the Solomon Islands with revelations of a not so secret agreement (still to be ratified by the Solomon Islands government) that would allow the stationing of Chinese troops in the Island nation and the construction of a naval base that would allow the Chinese government to project (naval) power into and over the South Pacific.

The Chinese have invested a ton of capital in a number of pacific island territories and now they are seeking to make good on their investment helped by the fact that the Solomon Islands are hardly a functioning democracy not helped by the ongoing enmity between the Malaitans and the Isatabus.

And ‘our’ response … a ritual wringing of hands because the reality is that there is nothing much we can do given that we are treading a tightrope in respect of our relations with China … and there’s nothing much the Pacific Forum can do either. The Chinese hold much of the cards in the form of debt owed.

Australia … a different story. They’re prepared to tackle China up front and accept the fall-out. Their military is undergoing a significant expansion which gives them muscle. And that brings me to my next point. The New Zealand military is contracting, beset by morale problems (don’t underestimate how much damage was done to morale using them as security guards in MIQ facilities) and a funding squeeze. The modernisation programme foreshadowed by National and given teeth by Ron Mark is on the back burner with only the Orion and C130 replacement programme a done deal.

I cannot in all honesty see Te Kaha and Te Mana (ANZAC frigates) being replaced. The two platforms are a quarter of a century old and while they have been upgraded the reality they are quickly becoming obsolescent. Across the ditch the Australians have already placed orders for nine Hunter Class frigates at a projected cost of AUD35b (sure to increase) with construction due to start this year. I don’t see any appetite here for that sort of expenditure. Rather I suspect the frigates will be replaced with a new generation of our existing Offshore Patrol Vessels (civilian spec ships without the combat redundancy of combat ships) which will effectively consign the RNZN to Coastguard status.

Our ability to contribute to offensive type operation will reduce to the five Poseidon Maritime Patrol aircraft and elements from the SAS Regiment. I do not count either 1 RNZIR or 2/1 RNZIR as capable of anything more than very low level combat/peacekeeping operations. Their ORBAT has them at between 400-500. The reality is (and always has been) that in order to deploy at that strength would require the virtual gutting of the second battalion and, consider this, Australian infantry battalions can comprise up to 700 personnel and so our ability to contribute effectively to sustained multi-national, mid to high intensity operations, is a moot.

Our neglect of the military is long standing and there is a price to be paid for that. Our ANZAC partners have long considered us to be freeloaders … that exasperation is likely to increase. I cannot imagine our Defence Minister had an overly comfortable meeting with his OZ counterpart in his trip across the ditch last week.

Written by The Veteran

March 27, 2022 at 11:08 pm

WE SHOULD BE WORRIED

with 2 comments

With the news that the Solomon Islands PM has invited Chinese Riot Police to help maintain law and order in the Island State. This in addition to contingents from a number of Pacific Forum countries already on the ground.

The beleaguered Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, is playing a dangerous game. In seeking to divert attention away from the domestic drivers of the unrest, he blamed foreign powers for influencing Malaitaian discontent. While attributing the unrest in the Solomon Islands solely to geopolitical maneuvering is simplistic it provides a warning of how strategic competition can undermine resilience and contribute to fragility.

Clearly China, having successfully purchased the countries soul in wooing it away from Taiwan, is now calling the shots. The Japanese understood the strategic importance of the Solomon Islands in WW2 as an important base in their efforts to establish hegemony in the South Pacific. Seems China is doing with dosh and realpolitik arm twisting what the Japanese failed to do by force of arms.

We should be worried.

Written by The Veteran

December 24, 2021 at 10:23 pm