Securing the Maritime Domain: U.S. and New Zealand in a Bordered Pacific

Author: Nicklin, Germana

Published in National Security Journal, 17 March 2021

https://doi.org/10.36878/nsj20210317.03

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Abstract
Maritime security in the Pacific differs according to whose security is under threat and in what geographical location. Like the fluidity of the ocean, maritime security is dynamic involving multiple interests. But the Pacific is also a very bordered space. Drawing on a December 2019 study tour of US defence facilities in Hawai’i, this article addresses the question “How are United States (US) and New Zealand maritime security interests bordered in the Pacific and what are the implications?” First, the article situates maritime security within state territoriality and defence of borders. It then examines the Pacific Ocean as a bordered space, and sketches US and New Zealand interests within it, including differentiating Indo-Pacific from Pacific. Next, each country’s means of securing their maritime domains in the Pacific is explicated, the arenas of cooperation and gaps in knowledge worth researching further. It concludes by discussing US-NZ maritime cooperation within the framing of a Pacific maritime borderscape. One potential borderscape is the Polynesian Triangle. This article argues that defining a specifically bordered theatre of cooperation such as the Polynesian Triangle, driven by Pacific Island needs, is required to provide balance and visibility to non-military maritime security matters. Such a theatre of cooperation warrants further research.

Keywords: Maritime security, Pacific, borderscape, Indo-Pacific, United States, New Zealand.


Introduction
The Pacific Ocean is a geographical space dominated by narratives of human crossings – trade, migrations, and the exercise of maritime power. Maritime power and its potential effect on trade routes in the Pacific region has dominated 21st century narratives, opposing one side of the Pacific Ocean against the other, specifically China and the United States.1 This opposition is potentially destabilising for the region, but there are other important dynamics, particularly for New Zealand, that get far less attention.

One area in which these other dynamics play out is non-military maritime security, epitomised by the Boe Declaration on Regional Security signed by Pacific Island Forum leaders in 2018.2 A study tour of United States defence facilities in Hawai’i from 9-13 December 2019 provided the author with a unique opportunity to enter the maritime security world of one of the great powers in the region – the United States (US) and to reflect on its connection with New Zealand. Hawai’i is strategically positioned geographically for the deployment of military and non-military capabilities into Asia and the North West Pacific. Significant naval and air-borne craft are stationed in Hawai’i. One of the non-military capabilities stationed there is the US Coast Guard.

Stimulated by this study tour, this article addresses the question “How are US and New Zealand maritime security interests bordered in the Pacific and what are the implications?” It does not examine the nature of maritime threats, which are covered well elsewhere, but rather focuses on the Pacific maritime security arena. First, the article situates maritime security within state territoriality and defence of borders. It then examines the Pacific Ocean as a bordered space, and sketches US and New Zealand interests within it, including differentiating Indo-Pacific from Pacific. Next, each country’s means of securing their maritime domains in the Pacific is explicated, and the arenas of cooperation. It concludes by discussing US-NZ maritime cooperation within the framing of a Pacific maritime borderscape. It argues that defining a specifically bordered theatre of cooperation driven by Pacific Island needs is required to provide balance and visibility to non-military maritime security matters. Such a theatre of cooperation warrants further research.

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1 Dr Germana Nicklin, is Senior Lecturer at Massey University. Email g.nicklin@massey.ac.nz