Prime Minister Bill English says any military support New Zealand provides to the US in the wake of an attack from North Korea would be considered “on merit.”
This follows Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying Australia would “come to the aid of the US” if it was attacked by the rogue nation.
“If there is an attack on the United States by North Korea, then the Anzus treaty will be invoked and Australia will come to the aid of the United States, just as if there was an attack on Australia, the United States would come to our aid,” he told Australian media this morning.
Mr English’s comments were a touch more diplomatic, telling NZ Newswire any military support at this stage is hypothetical and he's still focused on a “peaceful resolution” of nuclear threats between the two nations.
“While there's been an escalation of rhetoric there isn't any indication that military action's going to occur,” he says.
“We're in close contact with the US and Australia but any decision New Zealand makes about North Korea we make according to our own interests.”
A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed this means New Zealand is under no legal obligation to fight with the US if it were to arise.
In a statement, Mr Brownlee says "this is a time for caution.
“Australia is our only formal ally and if the situation did develop into an armed conflict we would assess our options at the time,” he says.
“Committing to an aggressive response now – while encouraging all involved to avoid escalation – is not a position we want to take.
“The call from the international community is for North Korea to accept its legal obligations and abide by the numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding it desists from its missile testing and weapons development programme."
The Anzus treaty
The Anzus treaty, signed in 1952, recognised that an armed attack in the Pacific area on one member would endanger the peace and safety of the others.
The signatories – New Zealand, Australia and the US – pledged to "act to meet the common danger."
But in the mid-1980s, when the Labour government announced its decision to ban ships that were nuclear-powered or potentially nuclear-armed, New Zealand was effectively frozen out of ANZUS by the US.
‘Fire and fury’
Earlier this week, after North Korea revealed it was considering firing misses at the US-held Pacific island of Guam, US President Donald Trump warned North Korea it would face “fire and fury like the world had never seen” if it threatens the US.
Asked about the comments earlier this week, Mr English told reporters Mr Trump’s comments were not helping the situation.
“I'm worried those comments are not helpful when the situation's so tense. And I think you're seeing a reaction from North Korea that indicates that kind of comment is more likely to escalate than to settle things.”
He said everyone wants to avoid military confrontation and the recently imposed UN sanctions will help “push them in the right direction.”
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