A top ranking White House official says New Zealand has been receptive to working with AUKUS in the cyber arena.
Kurt Campbell, Joe Biden’s National Security Council co-ordinator for the Indo Pacific, briefed media in Wellington this morning on the defence pact between Australia, the UK and the US.
He said the US was now looking for other working group partners, and from his perspective the door was open for further talks with New Zealand.
“We agreed that we would launch the critical components of AUKUS, and then take steps to look at other partners,” he said.
“I will say, we’ve been gratified by how many countries want to join with us to work with cutting-edge technologies like in the cyber arena, hypersonics, you can go down a long list and it’s great to hear that New Zealand is interested.”
Campbell confirmed the United States was continuing its diplomatic push in the Pacific.
He will visit the Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands as the next stops on his diplomacy tour.
No promise given to US to assist in potential Taiwan conflict in exchange for subs – Canberra
Meanwhile, Australia’s Minister of Defence Richard Marles said the country had not gained access to American submarines by promising it would join any potential conflict over Taiwan.
Any decision around a future conflict would be made by the government of the day, he said.
Under the AUKUS pact, Australia will get three American-made Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines and will build up to eight further nuclear-powered submarines domestically.
Marles said securing trade pathways was crucial, particularly in areas such as the South China Sea.
“The maintenance of the rules-based order as we understand it, freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, is completely in Australia’s interest, and we need to make sure that we have a capability which can back up that interest.”
He said the future nuclear-powered submarines would be used to protect shipping routes to and from Australia.
New Zealand is increasingly reliant on commercial shipping hubs in Australia for transport of its imports and exports.
Former Australian prime ministers Paul Keating and Malcolm Turnbull have questioned how Australia can maintain its sovereignty in the nuclear submarines deal.