RIMPAC is the world’s largest, US-led naval military exercise. Normally held in May, this year the US has pushed it out to August. The New Zealand government needs to withdraw its participation and support of RIMPAC this year and every year.

RIMPAC includes over 26,000 troops from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam. Prior to the global spread of Covid-19, New Zealand had planned to send in excess of 300 troops

Given the global Covid-19 pandemic, it is irresponsible to send New Zealand soldiers to interact with local communities in Hawai’i and to interact with soldiers from dozens of other nations. There is every probability that soldiers will transmit the virus, exacerbating the spread and imposing heavy tolls on vulnerable communities.

At present the nuclear-powered US Navy Aircraft Carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is evacuating 2700 troops, due to Covid-19 infections, onto the island of Guam, where soldiers will be housed in hotels or other private facilities putting further strain on the community where there have already been three deaths from Covid-19. Two sailors assigned to separate San Diego-based military vessels tested positive for the disease. This is just a prelude to the spread of Covid-19 within armed forces across the globe.

As important as the Covid-19 issue is to RIMPAC this year, it is not the only reason why New Zealand should not be there. RIMPAC is primarily intended to cement US military domination of the Pacific. As a participant, New Zealand is contributing to this military showcase of imperial violence and ecological destruction in places such as Hawai’i and Guam.

We know the threats brought by militarisation are many, one being the increase in sex trafficking of indigenous children in Hawai'i. It is just one of the aspects of RIMPAC that repeats the reckless spread of disease used to erase indigenous communities by military voyages in the Pacific over generations.

The New Zealand public never agreed to be a part of the US-led alliance, and our values stand at odds with the abuse of our Pacific neighbours caused by RIMPAC. In 2018, RIMPAC used humanitarian aid and disaster relief to cloak these exercises in a veil of legitimacy. This language seeks to obscure the very real death and destruction caused by these same militaries across the globe.

In light of the appeal from the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, endorsed by the Pope, for a global ceasefire and to instead focus on combating Covid-19, it is especially inappropriate for the NZDF to participate in such extravagant war preparations as RIMPAC 2020.

New Zealand has the chance now to be a global partner and a model for other countries by choosing not to participate. New Zealand should completely withdraw from RIMPAC, this year and every year.

  • Join the voices for peace demanding that NZ #CancelRIMPAC2020. Sign the Open Letter tot the Prime Minister
  • Use social media to message @NZDefenceForce, @NZArmy, @NZNavy and and tag in Minister of Defence #RonMark and #nzpol saying NZ must #CancelRIMPAC2020
  • Email your local member of Parliament saying that soldiers should not be sent to Hawai’i for RIMPAC 2020 where they could either spread or contract Covid-19 threatening local populations there, people back in New Zealand and the health system


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