New Zealand buys US anti-submarine jets
Wellington : New Zealand has announced a $1.6 billion purchase of US military aircraft as it seeks to integrate its forces with American and Australian allies, officials said on Tuesday.
The purchase of the four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft "strengthens the coalition Government's Pacific Reset by providing a maritime patrol capability with the significant range and endurance needed to assist our partners in the region", a statement from New Zealand Defence Minister Ron Mark said.
New Zealand's announcement comes on the heels of the release on July 6 of its Strategic Defence Policy Statement for 2018, reports CNN.
In it, New Zealand warns of China's increasing influence in the Pacific, including its expanded military presence in the South China Sea, where Beijing is fortifying islands near some of the world's key shipping lanes.
The 40-page document said that China is challenging the existing order in the region while also increasing its involvement and investment in Pacific island nations where New Zealand's influence has long held sway.
New Chinese policy priorities could potentially damage "human rights, arms control and non-proliferation efforts".
Meanwhile, China has blasted the "groundless accusations" in the New Zealand defence paper, CNN reported.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during Monday's press briefing that New Zealand needs to "correct its mistaken remarks and actions and do more to improve mutual trust and cooperation".
Beijing would not back off claims in the South China Sea nor pull back its development efforts elsewhere, Hua said.
"China's development has never threatened anyone else; instead, it has brought important opportunities for other countries," the spokeswoman added.