New Zealand warns of rising threat from China to Indo-Pacific

China is the major driver of growing strategic competition in the region, the report said. PHOTO: REUTERS

WELLINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - New Zealand's Defence Force has warned of the increasing security threat posed by China to the country and its neighbours.

China is the major driver of growing strategic competition in the region that will increase the potential for confrontation and conflict, according to the Defence Assessment 2021 report published on Wednesday (Dec 8) in Wellington.

"Even absent open conflict, strategic competition will play out across a range of theatres - including in space and cyber space - in ways that will threaten New Zealand's security," the report said.

"This is true of both the wider Indo-Pacific and New Zealand's immediate region."

New Zealand Defence Assessments are generally conducted every five years as independent advice to the government.

They can help shape future policy development, but are not in themselves government policy.

"Given the increasingly adverse environment we are facing, New Zealand's defence policy approach needs to shift from risk management to a more deliberate, proactive strategy with clear priorities," Secretary of Defence Andrew Bridgman wrote in the publication.

The report said that "an increasingly powerful China is more assertively pursuing its interests" and noted that Beijing "is now more explicitly pursuing modernisation of the People's Liberation Army".

In terms of New Zealand's defence and security interests, one of the most threatening potential developments would be "the establishment of a military base or dual-use facility in the Pacific by a state that does not share New Zealand's values and security interests," it said.

"Such a development would fundamentally alter the strategic balance of the region."

New Zealand relies on trade with China, its biggest market for exports such as dairy products.

But the country is closely allied with neighbouring Australia, which is embroiled in a diplomatic spat with Beijing.

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