- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

New Zealand not to have 'peacenik' military

The June 19 article "New Zealand turns the military into a peacekeeping force" appears to be a case in which the desire for a good story won out over the facts. These facts are significant enough to warrant an article of their own. So, too, is New Zealands proud and ongoing role as a contributor to international peace and security. In the interests of correcting the writers more egregious claims, let me briefly note the following.

In the context of a recent review of New Zealand´s defense needs, the decision was made to disband an aging air-strike capability a capability that never had been used in a combat scenario and for which no likely contingency could be identified. The forsaking of these fighters was matched with a firm commitment to ensuring depth in capabilities of real importance to New Zealand, including our ability to contribute to regional security, as opposed to pursuing limited breadth across all areas. This commitment is buttressed by financial certainty and significant capital injections. The review took into account that any deployment of the New Zealand Defense Force will be as part of an international force, and that on the evidence of the past the capability most likely to be required of New Zealand was the army. It was logical, then, to make the army a significant focus for enhancement by ensuring that far from making it the "orphan" led by "peaceniks," as the writer suggests it will be trained and equipped for combat. The claim that little funding is being directed for "front-line combat gear" flies in the face of the facts, including my government´s recent NZ$600 million purchase of 105 light armored vehicles.

The review will result in a defense force that will make a difference. It meets our strategic needs and gives us the ability to contribute to international operations when we decide to so engage. There is no stepping back from New Zealand´s commitment to playing an appropriate role in this regard. Our record is a proud one, including being one of only two countries that fought alongside the United States in every major conflict of the 20th century. Nothing in the package alters our ability to make the very real contributions we have made to peace and security in our region over the past 10 years in Bougainville, Solomon Islands, East Timor (where we maintain a battalion-strength commitment) and beyond and in environments as diverse as Bosnia and the Middle East. Indeed, bearing in mind the extent to which the New Zealand army represented our major contribution to these various theaters, it is clear that our ability to make a difference will be enhanced, not diminished.


RIGHT HON. JAMES B. BOLGER, O.N.Z.

Ambassador

New Zealand Embassy

Washington

Puerto Rico shouldn't have option of remaining a Commonwealth

I cannot agree with Jeffrey T. Kuhner, who, in the June 21 Op-Ed article "Puerto Rico, 51st state?" argues that "the question of Puerto Rican statehood should be left to the residents of the island." Yes, the people of Puerto Rico have the right to self-determination. They do not have the right, however, to force us to be colonialists.

By all means, have a referendum to let them decide if they want to be independent or to become the 51st state. Commonwealth status, however, should no longer be an option.

If Puerto Ricans were to vote for independence, I would bid them a sad farewell and wish them well. If they decided on statehood, I would welcome them with open arms.


RAY MAGEE

Hollywood, Fla.

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