I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for being able to attend and participate in this conference. Today, I would like to offer some thoughts and perspectives on a particularly sensitive issue that is definitely of significant importance not only to the good people of New Zealand, but certainly with serious implications on whether or not man has the will and ability to care for Mother Earth, or just blow it to pieces by nuclear annihilation. I believe questions on nuclear terrorism have serious social implications and, from a legislative or parliamentary point of view, the answers to these questions have a tremendous impact on public policy which government leaders cannot ignore.
New Zealand is on of the few countries in the world that has openly and consistently maintained a foreign policy of not allowing ships or planes to enter New Zealand waters if they carry nuclear weapons. New Zealand applies this policy even to a country and an ally like the United States. To be clear, standard U.S. policy is to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on its ships and planes, period. However, New Zealand rejects U.S. policy and under no conditions will it allow the U.S. to enter its waters if U.S. planes or ships are carrying nuclear weapons or if the U.S. refuses to confirm whether or not its planes or ships are carrying nuclear weapons.
I think it may prove useful at this time to share with you a Pacific perspective in my capacity as the Ranking Member of the International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific and also as the Representative to the U.S. Congress from American Samoa. I might also add that first of all I am American, and of the 300 million people who live in the United States, I happen to be one of the 14.2 million Americans whose roots are from the Asia-Pacific Region and more specifically I am Polynesian of Samoan ancestry with a little sprinkling of Celtic-Cornish blood from Cornwall, England where the name Hunkin has its origin.
After expending some forty years of time and money to win the Cold War at an estimated cost to the U.S. of at least $5 trillion, the United States ended up becoming the only Super Power in the world. With its new-found status came added responsibilities to stabilize a global economy, defend its allies, cease nuclear testing, prevent the proliferation of development and production and sales of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, address marine environmental issues and the list goes on.
While not ignoring the fact that there were other incidents of terrorist attacks against a U.S. Embassy in Africa, A U.S. warship in the Middle East and in the basement of the World Trade Center in New York, I believe the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 against some 3,000 innocent persons in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. changed the entire spectrum of U.S. national security and foreign policy issues towards certain countries and other areas of the world.
As you are all well aware, the most critical factor that led my government to wage war against Iraq and the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein was based upon the information that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, and the fear was that at any time Saddam Hussein was going to press the nuclear button and fire missiles, with nuclear warheads attached, to Israel or any other county in the region that is friendly to the United States.
While it is true that no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) were ever found before, during and after we waged war on Iraq, the fact is my government has made a commitment to assist the people and leaders of Iraq towards greater democracy and, hopefully as a free people, they may demonstrate to the world that a democratic form government can exist in a Muslim country like Iraq.
But the crisis of 9-11 poses some very serious questions relative to the issues of terrorism and the use of nuclear weapons, especially by either rogue nations or extremist organizations like Al Qaeda, Hamas and others. The greatest danger we are now confronted with in the world today is the ability of these terrorist organizations to have access to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and nowadays, even a little “dirty bomb” can easily destroy the entire city of New York, and can be conveniently carried or transported in a suitcase anywhere in the world.
Again, the whole world knows that standard U.S. policy has always been to neither deny nor confirm the existence of nuclear weapons in its ships and aircrafts. However, as I alluded to earlier, on June 8, 1987, former Prime Minister David Lange of New Zealand surprised not only the United States but the entire world with the passage of a law that provided for the implementation of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty of 1985, the Treaty banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water of 1963, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1988, the Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Sea-bed and the Ocean floor and in the Subsoil Thereof of 1971, and the Convention on the Prohibition on the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxic Weapons and on their Destruction of 1972.
In addition to ratifying the above treaties, a special provision was also added to the act, which read, “Visits by nuclear powered ships – Entry in to the internal waters of New Zealand, the Prime Minister shall have regard to all relevant information and advice that may be available to the Prime Minister including information and advice concerning the strategic and security interest of New Zealand…. The Prime Minister may only grant approval for the entry into the internal water of New Zealand by foreign warships if the Prime Minister is satisfied that the warships will not be carrying any nuclear device upon their entry into the internal waters of New Zealand.” This same law applied also to foreign military aircrafts.”
In response to the actions taken by the Lange government, the Reagan Administration immediately took measure not to include New Zealand in intelligence communications and also not to include New Zealand in military maneuvers with Australia, as it has done in the years past. It has now been seventeen years since the passage of this restrictive law by New Zealand and, to my knowledge, Denmark, since 1964 is the only other democratic country that has placed similar restrictions on foreign warships and military aircrafts, although Denmark did not do so by enactment of legislation to provide for such prohibitions. There is also one exception in a port in Japan which has been in effect since World War II when nuclear weapons were used against Japan.
Since the ending of the Cold War, and since 9/11 and the war against Iraq, the world is again confronted with issues just as complicated and as far more serious than ever before. But one common denominator that still hangs over the lives of some six billion people who inhabit this planet is whether man has the ability to properly control and utilize nuclear energy other than to devise more creative ways to vaporize other human beings. The history of mankind has been to use its nuclear weapons to destroy. The first atom bomb was exploded by the United States in 1945, and now only a few days ago, Russia announced it is developing a more sophisticated system to deliver nuclear guided missiles.
One might ask, what does this have to do with New Zealand’s current policy of not allowing foreign nuclear warships and military aircrafts on its shores? In the seventeen years that I have now served in the U.S. Congress, I have had the privilege of visiting several times certain atolls and the people who were subjected to severe nuclear radiation when the U.S. conducted nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. To this day, I believe it is unfortunate that my own government has not kept its promise to provide adequate medical care for the hundreds of Marshallese who were exposed to nuclear radiation. Only recently those documents have been declassified and contrary to what these people were told by scientists and officials who conducted the U.S. nuclear testing program, almost the entire Marshall Islands Group was exposed to nuclear radiation. This matter still has not been resolved, but it is my sincere hope that the U.S. Congress will do something about it in the next two years.
In the summer of 1995, I also accompanied Mr. Oscar Temaru, current President of French Polynesia, on the Green Peace Warrior vessel which took us to Moruroa as part of some 20,000 demonstrators who came from Europe, Japan, the U.S., New Zealand, Austaralia and other to protest President Chirac’s decision to break France’ commitment to a moratorium not to conduct any more nuclear test. What was remarkable about his worldwide demonstration against President Chirac was that some 10,000 children from Hamburg, Germany donated 8 marks each to have their names listed in protest on the sail of a boat that joined us in Moruroa.
I personally visited Moruroa under supervision of the French Government and I remember well the fact that on certain areas of the island, it was off-limits and obviously contaminated and unfit for human occupation. Now, after years of denial, it is my understanding that the French government has admitted there are leakages of radioactive materials from these atolls where the nuclear tests were conducted.
For some 30 years, the French government detonated approximately 218 nuclear devices in the air, on the surface and under the atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa. The results? Some 10,000 Tahitians are believed to be severely exposed to nuclear radiation and the French Government has done little or nothing to properly diagnose or even give medical treatment to the Tahitian workers who were victims to this tragedy.
Three months ago, I was also invited by His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, since he had learned that as an American whose roots are from the Pacific, I knew something about nuclear testing. While there, I learned that Kazakhstan, before it became an independent nation, was used by the former Soviet Union for its nuclear testing program. In fact, I was told that I was the first Member of the U.S. Congress to visit Ground Zero at the Semipalantinsk Nuclear Test Site where the Soviet Union exploded its first nuclear bomb in 1949. What really caught my attention was the fact that during the years the Soviet Union exploded some 500 nuclear devices in Kazakhstan, over 1.5 million Kazaks were severely exposed to nuclear radiation.
It is not surprising to now learn that there is a high incident of thyroid cancer, leukemia, women giving birth to what doctors have termed “jelly babies” and a whole host of other illnesses that have been associated with nuclear testing. These medical problems are found to be common among the victims in the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia and now Kazakhstan.
The fact that two of the world’s major nuclear sites were situated in the Pacific can only give reason as to why the people of New Zealand through their duly elected leaders were very adamant that their country ought and should remain nuclear free. There is a belief in some circles that as long as New Zealand does not attract the presence of nuclear warships and nuclear weapons, there is no reason to fear a nuclear attack from its enemies, if there are any. Also, as a small nation that is separated by long distances in the South Pacific, there is no reason for New Zealand to be drawn into a nuclear partnership with the United States since it just does not have the means to operate a strong military presence and it can little afford to become a country to possess nuclear weapons even if there was an opportunity to do so.
The question of whether U.S. national security and strategic interests in the South Pacific has been compromised because of New Zealand’s current policy on the nuclear issue does not seem to give any indication that such is the case. Last year, Prime Minister Helen Clark visited President Bush at the White House and, on the question of whether or not there is a rift between our two countries, the President responded, “We haven’t started with New Zealand (on a free trade agreement)…. The nuclear policy obviously makes it difficult for us to have a military alliance, but we’re friends with the New Zealanders. We respect the New Zealand people.”
My point is this. Fighting nuclear terrorism is definitely a global issue that requires the cooperation and participation especially of a member of the United Nations. What New Zealand has demonstrated to the world is a plea to stop this nuclear madness, and for the nuclear nations to disarm, dismantle and eliminate altogether chemical, biological and especially nuclear weapons. But in the context of 9-11, can New Zealand maintain its position and simply rely on its allies, like the U.S., to protect New Zealanders and our other allies in the Asia Pacific region? At what point must New Zealand also step up to the plate and assume responsibility and carry its fair share of the burden in protecting present and future generations from rogue nations and organizations bent on using nuclear weapons to destroy and annihilate democratic governments?
In an ideal world and as one who has witnessed first-hand the effects of nuclear devastation, I too would like to see a nuclear-free world. But this is not a reality that anyone believes can be achieved after 9-11. I submit that New Zealand’s nuclear policy is not just a foreign policy. This policy has serious economical implication on trade and commercial relations with the United States. While some may argue that there is no connection between New Zealand’s nuclear policy and trade, I am reminded of a Chinese saying that says in this world we have many acquaintances but very few friends.
New Zealand has always been held in high esteem not only as a close ally and partner of the United States but truly as a friend that shares the same values of democracy and fundamental beliefs of freedom and free enterprise. Like the U.S., New Zealand promotes and protects the rights of people to live in a free and pluralistic society. Therefore, the question before us is not whether New Zealand needs the United States or whether the United States needs New Zealand. I submit that we both need each other. In my humble opinion, New Zealand is a most important link that ties all the nations of the Pacific region to its current alliance with the United States to fight collectively and unitedly against the threat of nuclear terrorism now posed by certain rogue nation and terrorist organizations.
In a post 9-11 world, we need to reexamine the ANZUS Security Alliance between the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. Since the enactment of its nuclear policy, New Zealand over the years has not participated in the annual military exercises of this security pact. Some may argue that ANZUS has served a useful purpose during the Cold War as a complementary organization to NATO in Europe. But now in the aftermath of the Cold War, other regional organizations in the Asia-Pacific region like ASEAN, SEATO, and APEC may prove useful in addressing the issue of global terrorism.
The recent meeting in Chile among the leaders of APEC countries was a clear manifestation of the seriousness of global terrorism including the possible use of nuclear weapons by rogue nations like North Korea and possible Iran, as it was stated by President Bush in his remarks at the conference. As of now, North Korea has the capability of launching missiles with nuclear warheads which can reach many cities along the west coast of the United States. If these missiles can be launched from North Korea to target San Francisco and Los Angeles, they can just as easily reach the cities of Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand.
As I had indicated earlier, the attack by terrorist on September 11, 2001 was a major turning point for the U.S. and literally turned everything upside down and inside out and caused us to reassess our foreign policies and military and strategic plans to do battle against the terrorist organizations that were responsible for this attack. The 9-11 tragedy resulted in the death of some 3,000 individuals and they were not just from the United States. Along with the Americans who died fro this tragedy were 264 others who represented 43 countries of the world. 61 were from the Asia-Pacific region; 10 from Australia; 2 from New Zealand; 1 from India; 16 from the Philippines; 1 from Taiwan; 4 from China; 1 from Indonesia; and 16 from Japan.
In other words, what happened on 9-11, 2001 was not just an American tragedy but something that impacted the entire world. Obviously the United States cannot fight this battle alone and this is why New Zealand can also play a vital role along with our other important allies. Again, ideally, I too, adamantly support a nuclear free world. But within the context of a post 9-11 world, every peace loving nation, including New Zealand, must work together in equity and fairness and share the responsibilities associated with national and international efforts to end global terrorism and especially to prevent the use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons by terrorist organizations and rogue nations.
This does not mean, however, that New Zealand has to become a nuclear nation. In all my readings and research into this matter, for the past fifty years or more, the United States has never at any time had an accident of any kind associated with the transport and transfer of its nuclear weaponry system whether by land or sea. In fact, the United States has not made a miscalculation or posed any danger to any country of the world, especially among its allies, when transporting or transferring its nuclear weaponry system.
After the Cold War, the United States adopted a policy to contain communism by establishing NATO and ANZUS and advocating a policy of nuclear deterrence as a means of warning any country that poses a serious threat to the security of the U.S. and its allies and that the U.S. will most assuredly use whatever means of force necessary, including the use of nuclear weapons, to protect itself and its allies against attack from its enemies. For better coordination and effectiveness of the above policies, the United States and its allies established the practice of “neither denying nor confirming” the presence of nuclear weapons on its warships and aircrafts. This policy was enacted for obvious security reasons and as a means of making sure both real and potential enemies do not know the location of strategic placements of nuclear weapons around the world.
I believe it is now vitally important that New Zealand return to its previous status as an ally with Australia and the United States especially on the issue of exchanging classified intelligence information on movements of terrorist organization in the Asia-Pacific region. While we may disagree on this one issue of what it means to be a nuclear free zone, I believe we ought to continue the dialogue and consider other options on how best to protect our two nations against nuclear terrorism.
While I know this is a bold statement to make and while it is the right of New Zealand to continue on with its current nuclear policy; and while there have been some bitter exchanges made between our two countries for some twenty years now, and for want of better words to describe our current situation, I am reminded that some sixty to eighty warriors are required and needed to paddle a Maori waka, a traditional Polynesia Maori voyaging canoe. One need not to be reminded that in order for this waka to reach its final destination, the chief navigator, the steersman and the warriors who paddle this waka must all work together in unison and with one purpose – to overcome whatever storms and adversity that some along the way – and it is critical that we all share in both good and bad weather conditions. My point is that we are all in this waka together. And there is more that binds us together rather than separates our two countries. If the waka sinks, we all sink together.
Let me close by saying there are some 3,000 American Samoan soldiers who proudly serve in the Armed Forces of the United States throughout the world. Some 300 Reservists from American Samoa have just been activated and deployed for duty to serve both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the war in Iraq began, I have had to accompany the body of one of our soldier’s home to his village in American Samoa and I also attended the graveside services for another at the National Cemetery at Arlington.
The United States and its Western allies do not all agree on our current policy on Iraq, and we respect the fact that Western countries like France and Germany do not have ground troops fighting in Iraq. And yet, there are other security issues that we are in agreement with and our communications and coordination of our intelligence network continues to work quite well.
By the same token, I see no reason why our two nations – despite our disagreement on this one particular issue – cannot work cooperatively together or by way of assessing each other’s capabilities and resources, properly exchange intelligence information and take every appropriate measure necessary to assure the security of both our countries. Reminding my colleagues and friends in Washington, D.C. that coconuts and sweet potatoes or the kumara do not grow well in D.C., sometimes misinformation and extreme ideologies do not solve but may only add to the problems we face today. Semantics and rhetoric sometimes even contribute to the confusion, so how issues are defined or may be perceived becomes more apparent when we are unable to resolve them.
Years ago, the former Prime Minister of Samoa, the Honorable Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, in his address before the United Nations General Assembly, shared with those assembled a unique Pacific perspective that sometimes others have a hard time making sense of it. He said Westerners look at things either from a bird’s-eye view or a worm’s-eye view. But those of us from the Pacific look at things with three perspectives, namely, the man sitting on top of the mountain overlooking the horizon, and the man on top of a tree barely seeing what appears to be a man in the canoe in the middle of the ocean; and the man who is in the canoe actually catching fish. Who is to say that one perspective is better than the other? All have a part to play, and I submit that the same can be applied to our relationship with our friend and ally – New Zealand – or Aotearoa – as it was known anciently by my Polynesian Maori cousins who settled in these islands before the arrival of Europeans in the 1700’s.