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Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty
Abbreviation ANZUS
Formation September 1, 1951
Type International defense organization
Membership 3 member states (U.S., New Zealand, Australia)
Official languages English

The Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS or ANZUS Treaty) is the military alliance which binds Australia and New Zealand and, separately, Australia and the United States to cooperate on defense matters in the Pacific Ocean area, though today the treaty is understood to relate to attacks in any area.


Treaty structure

The treaty was previously a full three-way defence pact, but following a dispute between New Zealand and the United States in 1984 over visiting rights for nuclear-armed or nuclear-powered ships of the U.S. Navy in New Zealand ports, the treaty no longer applies between the United States and New Zealand, but is still in force between either country and Australia, separately.

The US–Australia alliance under the ANZUS Treaty remains in full force. Heads of defense of one or both nations often have joined the annual ministerial meetings, which are supplemented by consultations between the U.S. Combatant Commander Pacific and the Australian Chief of Defence Force. There are also regular civilian and military consultations between the two governments at lower levels. Annual meetings to discuss ANZUS defense matters take place between the United States Secretary of State and the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs (AUSMIN). The most recent AUSMIN meeting took place in Washington in April 2009.[1]

Unlike NATO, ANZUS has no integrated defense structure or dedicated forces. Nevertheless, Australia and the United States conduct a variety of joint activities. These include military exercises ranging from naval and landing exercises at the task-group level to battalion-level special forces training, assigning officers to each other's armed services, and standardizing equipment and operational doctrine. The two countries also operate several joint defense facilities in Australia, mainly ground stations for early warning satellites, and signals intelligence gathering in South-East Asia and East Asia as part of the ECHELON network.




The treaty came about following the close cooperation of the United States, Australia and New Zealand during World War II, when Australia had come under attack by a foreign power, Japan, for the first time in its history. Following the end of World War II, the United States was eager to normalize relations with Japan, particularly as the Korean War was still raging a short distance from Japan. With the involvement of China and possibly the Soviet Union in Korea, the Cold War was threatening to become a full-scale war. However, Australia and New Zealand in particular were extremely reluctant to finalize a peace treaty with Japan which would allow for Japanese rearmament. Both countries relented only when an Australian and New Zealand proposal for a three-way security treaty was accepted by the United States.

The resulting treaty was concluded at San Francisco on September 1, 1951, and entered into force on April 29, 1952. The treaty bound the signatories to recognize that an armed attack in the Pacific area on any of them would endanger the peace and safety of the others. It stated 'The Parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific'. The three nations also pledged to maintain and develop individual and collective capabilities to resist attack.

Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam and The War on Terror

The treaty itself was not a source of debate for 30 years, though in this period New Zealand and Australia committed forces to the Malayan Emergency and subsequently the ANZUS nations fought together in the Vietnam War.

As part of the United Nations deployment, New Zealand and Australia had earlier fought alongside the United States in the Korean War. Later New Zealand sent transport aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft and frigates to the Gulf, as well as a very small number of soldiers, SAS soldiers, medical and assorted and peace-keeping forces in Afghanistan—and despite Prime Minister Helen Clark being openly critical of American justifications for the war, New Zealand did send engineer troops to Iraq during the 2003 invasion.[2]

Australian reservations about the MX

In 1983, the United States approached Australia with proposals for testing the new generation of American intercontinental ballistic missiles, the MX missile. American test ranges in the Pacific were insufficient for testing the new long-range missiles and the United States military wished to use the Tasman Sea as a target area. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser of the Liberal Party had agreed to provide monitoring sites near Sydney for this purpose. However, in 1985 the United States released the new Prime Minister Bob Hawke of the Labor Party from this obligation after the agreement attracted significant criticism from the Left faction of the Labor Party.

New Zealand bans Nuclear Material

In 1985, the nature of the ANZUS alliance changed significantly. Due to a current of anti-nuclear sentiment within New Zealand, tension had long been present between ANZUS members as the United States is a declared nuclear power. France, a naval power and a declared nuclear power, had been conducting nuclear tests on South Pacific Islands. Following the victory of the New Zealand Labour Party in elections in 1984, Prime Minister David Lange barred nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using New Zealand ports or entering New Zealand waters. Reasons given were the dangers of nuclear weapons, continued French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, and opposition to US President Ronald Reagan's policy of aggressively confronting the Soviet Union. Given that the United States Navy refused to confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons aboard ships, these laws essentially refused access to New Zealand ports for all United States Navy ships. In February 1985, a port-visit request by the United States for the USS Buchanan was refused by New Zealand, as the Buchanan was capable of launching nuclear depth bombs. According to opinion polls taken before the 1984 election, only 30 per cent of New Zealanders supported visits by US warships with a clear majority of 58 per cent opposed, and over 66 per cent of the population lived in locally declared nuclear free zones.[3] An opinion poll commissioned by the 1986 Defence Committee of Enquiry confirmed that 92 per cent now opposed nuclear weapons in New Zealand and 69 per cent opposed warship visits; 92 per cent wanted New Zealand to promote nuclear disarmament through the UN, while 88 per cent supported the promotion of nuclear free zones.[4]

The United States suspends ANZUS obligations to New Zealand

After consultations with Australia and after negotiations with New Zealand broke down, the United States announced that it was suspending its treaty obligations to New Zealand until United States Navy ships were re-admitted to New Zealand ports, citing that New Zealand was "a friend, but not an ally". [5] The crisis made front-page headlines for weeks in many American newspapers, [6] while many American cabinet members were quoted as expressing a deep sense of betrayal.[7] However, David Lange did not withdraw New Zealand from ANZUS, although his government's policy led to the US's decision to suspend its treaty obligations to New Zealand.

An opinion poll in New Zealand in 1991[8] showed 54% of those sampled preferred to let the treaty lapse rather than accept visits again by nuclear-armed or nuclear-powered vessels. The policy did not become law until June 8, 1987 with the passing of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987, more than two years after the Buchanan was refused entry after the USA refused to declare the presence or absence of nuclear weapons, and a year after the USA suspended its treaty obligations to New Zealand.

On July 10, 1985, the French DGSE bombed the Greenpeace protest vessel Rainbow Warrior in Auckland. This event strengthened opposition in New Zealand of the military application of nuclear technology in any form. The failure of Western leaders to condemn what could be considered an act of war on New Zealand by France caused a great deal of change in foreign and defense policy.[9] New Zealand distanced itself from its traditional ally, the United States, and built relationships with small South Pacific nations, while retaining its good relations with Australia, and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom.[10]

September 11, 2001 Attacks

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Former U.S. President George W. Bush on September 10, 2001. Howard was in Washington, D.C. during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Australia and New Zealand both provided military units, including special forces and naval ships in support of the US led "Operation Enduring Freedom" (support for anti-Taliban forces in the Afghan civil war in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks).

East Timor

Between 1999 and 2003 the armed forces of Australia and New Zealand deployed together in a large scale operation in East Timor, to prevent pro-Indonesian militia from overturning a vote for independence and conducting ethnic cleansing on the island. The United States provided only limited logistical support. The operation was taken over by the United Nations.


One topic that became prominent in the early 2000s are its implications in the case of a hypothetical attack by the People's Republic of China against Taiwan with the ROC (Taiwan) receiving American support. While Australia has strong cultural and economic ties with the United States, it also has an increasingly important trade relationship with mainland China.

In August 2004, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer implied in Beijing that the treaty would likely not apply to that situation, but he was quickly corrected by then Prime Minister John Howard. In March 2005, after an official of the People's Republic of China stated that it may be necessary for Australia to reassess the treaty and after the PRC passed an Anti-Secession Law regarding the ROC, Downer stated that in case of a PRC attack on the ROC, the treaty would come into force, but that the treaty would require only consultations with the United States and not necessarily commit Australia to war.

The Alliance today

Annual bilateral meetings between the US Secretary of State and the Australian Foreign Minister replaced annual meetings of the ANZUS Council of Foreign Ministers. The first bilateral meeting was held in Canberra in 1985. At the second meeting, in San Francisco in 1986, the United States announced that it was suspending its treaty security obligations to New Zealand pending the restoration of port access. Subsequent bilateral Australia–US Ministerial (AUSMIN) meetings have alternated between Australia and the United States.

The alliance engenders some political controversy in Australia. Particularly after Australian involvement in the 2003 Iraq war, some quarters of Australian society have called for a re-evaluation of the relationship between the two nations. Nonetheless the alliance enjoyed broad support during the Cold War[11] and continues to enjoy broad support in Australia.[12] One commentator in Australia has argued that the treaty should be re-negotiated in the context of terrorism, the modern role of the United Nations and as a purely US-Australian alliance.[13]

Australia is also a contributor to the National Missile Defense system.[14][15]

In May 2006, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Christopher Hill, described the New Zealand anti-nuclear issue as "a relic", and signalled that the US wanted a closer defense relationship with New Zealand. He also praised New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan and reconstruction in Iraq. "Rather than trying to change each other's minds on the nuclear issue, which is a bit of a relic, I think we should focus on things we can make work" he told an Australian newspaper.[16]

While there have been signs of the nuclear dispute between the US and NZ thawing out, pressure from the United States increased in 2006 with U.S. trade officials linking the repeal of the ban of American nuclear ships from New Zealand's ports to a potential free trade agreement between the two countries.[7]

On February 4, 2008, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced that the United States will join negotiations with four AsiaPacific countries: Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore to be known as the "P-4". These nations already have an FTA called the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership and the United States will be looking to become involved in the "vitally important emerging Asia-Pacific region" A number of U.S. organizations support the negotiations including, but not limited to: the United States Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Foreign Trade Council, Emergency Committee for American Trade and Coalition of Service Industries.[17][18]

See also


  1. ^ AUSMIN 2009 - Media Release - The Hon Stephen Smith MP, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs
  2. ^ BBC News – NZ PM backs Blair's Iraq conduct
  3. ^ Disarmament and Security Centre: Publications - Papers
  4. ^ Disarmament and Security Centre: Publications - Papers
  5. ^ Nuclear Free: The New Zealand Way: Books: David Lange, Michael Gifkins
  6. ^ The Australian National University
  7. ^ a b New Zealand: US links free trade to repeal of NZ nuclear ships ban - November 2, 2002.
  8. ^ Green Left - NZ Nationals move closer to US
  9. ^ A History of New Zealand, Professor Sir Keith Sinclair KBE, Penguin Books, New Zealand, 1991
  10. ^ Nuclear Free: The New Zealand Way, The Right Honourable David Lange, Penguin Books, New Zealand,1990
  11. ^ ASSDA - Opinion Poll - M0004: Morgan Gallup Poll, May, 1984 (Computer Reports)
  12. ^ Destined to stay with the USA - OpinionGerardHenderson -
  13. ^ It's time to trade in, and trade up, the outdated ANZUS treaty - On Line Opinion - 15/4/2004
  14. ^ U.S. and Australia Sign Missile Defense Agreement - AUSMIN 2004
  15. ^ Australia to Join US Missile Defence Program
  16. ^ Geoff Elliott (2007-03-22). "Better relations on the menu as Kiwi PM dines with Bush". The Australian.,20867,21425192-2703,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-24.  
  17. ^ Office of the United States Trade Representative
  18. ^ Recent Events

External links


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