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March 5, 2018 | by  | in News Splash |
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Disarmament Portfolio Brought Back

The Government is bringing back the cabinet role of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, with Winston Peters being appointed to the position.

In her first major foreign policy speech, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the reinstatement of the ministerial portfolio to an audience at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs last Tuesday 27 February.

The role was removed from the cabinet portfolio in 2011 under the previous National Government. Currently New Zealand’s efforts towards weapons disarmament are carried out through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“The portfolio responsibility will be given to Rt Hon Winston Peters, and is an acknowledgment of the emphasis this government places on our long held anti-nuclear stance, and the role we must play now and in the future,” Ardern said.

Ardern said the ministerial role will target the spread of nuclear, chemical, and conventional weapons.

She also affirmed the Government’s commitment to disarmament in the Pacific region. “The pursuit of disarmament is as vital today as it was when Norman Kirk and David Lange proclaimed New Zealand’s opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear testing in the Pacific”.

“Risks to global peace and security are growing. The greatest challenge we have today comes from North Korea, situated right here in our region.”

Dr Van Jackson, a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University, told Salient that the North Korea situation is the most prevailing issue in terms New Zealand’s nuclear disarmament goals.

“If you feel strongly about nuclear proliferation, then it makes sense to prioritize the North Korea issue.  For a long time, New Zealand treated the North Korea issue as somehow separate from their nuclear non-proliferation agenda.”

“North Korea is one hell of an affront to any notion of a nuclear-free world.  So Arden’s speech was significant in deliberately re-linking these twin issues of nukes and North Korea.”

Dr Van Jackson said that the reinstatement of the role was an important symbolic gesture to anti-nuclear efforts, but questioned how much of a commitment against weapons proliferation this was from Ardern and Peters.

“The Government’s virtue signalling on disarmament is very meagre means put in service of an impossibly large goal.  So strategically there’s an imbalance in what the government is announcing, and that should be cause to have measured expectations.”

The Auckland Peace Action member Valerie Morse has said the reinstatement of the role is “a good sign” from the NZ government.

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