Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for New Zealand

Newsline: New Zealand’s Ardern names ‘incredibly diverse’ cabinet, including first Indigenous woman as top diplomat

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a new cabinet Monday, describing her ministers as an “incredibly diverse” group who are highly qualified for their positions and reflective of “the New Zealand that elected them.” Her cabinet, set to be sworn in Friday, will focus on helping the nation recover from the coronavirus pandemic. It is made up of 20 people, five of whom are Maori, the Indigenous people of New Zealand who make up more than 16 percent of the nation’s population. Eight cabinet members are women. They include Nanaia Mahuta, who will serve as foreign minister, becoming the first woman to do so in New Zealand’s history. She was first elected to Parliament in 1996 and has also served as minister for Maori development and local government. In her new role, she will replace Winston Peters, who lost his reelection bid this year. “She is someone who builds fantastic relationships very, very quickly, and that is one of the key jobs in a foreign affairs role,” Ardern said Monday. “You only need to look at the difficult work that she has had to conduct over, for instance, her local government portfolio, and that to me demonstrates those diplomacy skills that we need to represent New Zealand on the world stage.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/11/02/new-zealand-ardern-cabinet-diversity/) Mahuta has already made history in New Zealand’s Parliament. Four years ago, she began wearing moko kauae, a traditional Maori chin tattoo, becoming the first woman to do so while serving as a lawmaker.

Newsline: US ambassador avoids New Zealand quarantine on return

United States Ambassador Scott Brown’s diplomatic status has allowed him and his wife to avoid going into quarantine at New Zealand’s border after the couple returned from a trip to their home country this week. Just about everybody who arrives in New Zealand is required to spend 14 days isolated in a government-run hotel that is guarded by the military as the country spends billions of dollars on its efforts to eliminate the coronavirus. But the Browns said Friday they’re isolating themselves at home. New Zealand has stamped out most community transmission of the virus and is focusing much of its efforts on keeping the border safe. The Ministry of Health says that since June 8, there have been 118 diplomats arrive in the country, including the Browns. Of those, 112 have agreed to go into the government-run hotels. But ultimately, officials have no power over diplomats. Because New Zealand has signed the Vienna Convention, which gives diplomats special rights, “we are unable to require diplomatic personnel to enter quarantine or managed isolation,” the ministry said in an email. Brown and his wife arrived back in New Zealand on Thursday after a trip on which Brown met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other dignitaries. Brown said he and his wife tested negative for the virus before leaving the U.S. and had been very careful about wearing masks and observing social distancing guidelines during transit. “Just like everyone else, we will be medically monitored while in isolation and tested again around Day 3 and Day 12,” Brown said in a statement. “We will not leave isolation until those tests come back negative.” (https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/us-ambassador-avoids-zealand-quarantine-return-72672564) The U.S. Embassy said the ambassador’s self-isolation would save New Zealand money and allow him to do his job remotely, which he couldn’t have done otherwise. The embassy said the household staff at the ambassador’s residence near Wellington will remain on leave until the couple complete their isolation. “Even before I left New Zealand, our two governments started exploring how best to manage my return,” Brown said in his statement. The Ministry of Health described that interaction a bit differently, saying New Zealand officials “were informed that Ambassador Brown would self-isolate.” Brown, a former Republican senator from Massachusetts, has close ties with President Donald Trump and was once considered a possible running mate. He plans to return to the U.S. permanently in January.

Newsline: South Korea, New Zealand spar over diplomat in sex harassment case

South Korea and New Zealand are at odds over the case of a South Korean diplomat who has been accused of groping a New Zealand staff member at Seoul’s Embassy in Wellington. The New Zealand government has called on South Korea to waive the man’s diplomatic immunity, but Seoul has agreed to cooperate on the grounds his immunity not be waived, South Korean news service News 1 reported. South Korea’s foreign ministry told reporters on Monday the two countries have been in communication over the case. Seoul will work with the New Zealand government if it requests investigation under the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and extradition. (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2020/08/03/South-Korea-New-Zealand-spar-over-diplomat-in-sex-harassment-case/6671596458162/) New Zealand has urged Seoul to do more, however. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has “expressed her disappointment that the Korean Government was unable to waive immunity to allow aspects of the police investigation into this matter to proceed,” the prime minister’s office said, according to the New Zealand Herald on Sunday. Ardern recently conveyed her opinions in a phone call with President Moon Jae-in. The diplomat, a former deputy ambassador to New Zealand, has been charged with three counts of sexual misconduct that took place in 2017. The plaintiff in the case, a male employee at the embassy, is currently receiving support from MOSAIC, an advocacy group for male sex abuse survivors, according to the report.

Newsline: South Korea plans to handle diplomat’s sexual harassment in New Zealand

President Moon Jae-in told the leader of New Zealand that his government will handle a sexual harassment allegation involving a senior South Korean diplomat, once based in Wellington, after finding relevant facts, a Cheong Wa Dae official said. Moon had phone talks with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern the previous day. She raised the issue at the end of the 30-minute conversation, the official told reporters. The 2017 case has drawn public attention again since a recent news report in New Zealand. While serving as a counselor at the South Korean Embassy in Wellington at that time, the diplomat was accused of behaving indecently against a local male staffer. The diplomat, whose name remains withheld formally, left the capital city in 2018 and is now serving as consul general in another foreign country. There has reportedly since been little progress in a probe by New Zealand’s police despite a court-issued arrest warrant. Responding to Ardern’s remarks, Moon said, “Related (South Korean) authorities will handle (the matter) after confirming facts,” the Cheong Wa Dae official said on the condition of anonymity. (http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20200729000928) According to sources familiar with the matter, the foreign ministry had probed the diplomat and had cut his salary for a month as a disciplinary measure before reassigning him to the current post.

Newsline: New Zealand broke into embassies for CIA and MI6

The SIS broke into the Indian High Commission for MI6 and the Iranian Embassy for the CIA in the late 1980s and early 1990s to photograph code books, plant bugs and steal communications. The operations included at least two raids on the Indian High Commission in Wellington in 1989 and 1991 to photograph thousands of pages from the commission’s code books, which were used to encrypt communications. The covert attack on the Indian High Commission was code-named Operation Dunnage and was a joint mission between the New Zealand SIS and Britain’s MI6. Thousands of photographs containing the codes were sent back to the UK so that Britain’s foreign intelligence service could decipher the communications of Indian government officials and diplomats. RNZ has also learned that in the early 1990s the New Zealand SIS targeted the Iranian embassy in Wellington in a mission named Operation Horoscope, which was driven by the CIA. (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/in-depth/420210/nz-broke-into-embassies-for-cia-and-mi6) The CIA altered circuit boards on a telex machine used by the Iranian Embassy in Wellington, allowing the American intelligence agency to intercept the Iranian’s communications. The SIS entered the embassy for the CIA, photographed the building and installed listening devices supplied by the CIA. Operation Horoscope involved months of covert work and remained active for many years afterwards. RNZ learned about the raids after piecing together information gained after months of engaging with multiple sources in New Zealand, Britain and the US.

Newsline: Embassies help expats respect Anzac Day

Australian high commissions and embassies around the world have taken to social media platforms to enable expats commemorate Anzac Day. Global travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic have prevented traditional Anzac ceremonies abroad taking place, such as at Gallipolli, Kokoda, and Villers-Bretonneux. “While this year is different, we can all still mark Anzac Day,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne told AAP. “Our embassies and high commissions are playing an important role to bring Australian expats together to commemorate virtually.” (https://www.9news.com.au/national/embassies-help-expats-respect-anzac-day/3e6c0933-d657-4e51-b437-03785a79b019) She said Australians around the world were able to pay their respects through social media accounts of their local embassy or high commission and by watching the Australian War Memorial’s Anzac Day commemorative service online. A number of Australian embassies and high commissions – including in New Zealand, PNG, Malaysia, Belgium, Tokyo, the Middle East, the United States, Chile, and the Pacific – held small ceremonies and other virtual events in accordance with local COVID-19 restrictions. In London, Australia’s High Commission will broadcast a special service hosted by the High Commissioner for Australia and the Acting High Commissioner for New Zealand from their respective homes in the UK.

Newsline: Student stranded in South Africa due to broken New Zealand embassy printer

A medical student at Otago University who is attempting to get home is stranded in Pretoria, South Africa. A day before Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) advised all New Zealanders to return home, Ibraheen Rasheed’s passport was stolen. He and his three Otago University colleagues, under MFAT advice, took a one-hour flight from Pietermaritzburg, where they were in an elective placement, to Pretoria so that he could get an emergency travel document issued from the New Zealand High Commission. But the specialised printer at the High Commission was broken and he was unable to get emergency documentation. (https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018740070/kiwi-student-stranded-in-south-africa-due-to-broken-embassy-printer) His mother Fazilat Shah has since been desperately trying to get him on a flight home. His three colleagues were able to get on a flight home on 19 March, but Ibraheen has had to stay in Pretoria until his situation is resolved – with time fast running out to leave before South Africa goes into lock down. A new passport has been issued but Shah says she is worried it will not arrive in time. “The New Zealand passport I understand has only just left New Zealand. The only flight I’ve been able to get for Ibraheen is Friday 1pm their time and that is after the lock down on Thursday at midnight in South Africa.

Newsline: Some New Zealand’s diplomatic posts closed due to COVID-19 fears

The government has temporarily closed a high commission and an embassy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand’s high commission in Bridgetown, Barbados and the NZ embassy in Yangon, Myanmar are closed because of the scarcity of air links to the cities. Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters says Kiwi staff and their families in these locations will be withdrawn for health and safety reasons. When they return to New Zealand, they will contribute to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ COVID-19 response work in Wellington. (https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/03/coronavirus-diplomatic-posts-closed-due-to-covid-19-fears.html) Although these are the only current closures, Peters isn’t ruling out temporarily shutting other diplomatic posts. “With the rapidly changing health, safety and security situation for staff overseas due to COVID-19, we cannot rule out other temporary closures as a result of the pandemic,” he says. “We are actively working to sustain our network around the globe and we have every intention to keep the vast majority of New Zealand’s 62 diplomatic posts open.” The high commission in Barbados closed on Sunday, and the embassy in Yangon will close on Monday. The temporary closures will be reviewed in a month’s time. Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the borders will close to all non-citizens and non-residents of New Zealand. She said it was the first time in the country’s history this had been done.

Newsline: New Zealand Diplomat Found Guilty of Planting Camera in Embassy Toilet

A former top-tanking New Zealand official has been found guilty of planting a secret camera in a unisex bathroom at the country’s U.S. embassy. Alfred Keating was the highest ranking official at New Zealand’s embassy in Washington D.C. when the camera was discovered in 2017. Auckland District Court heard earlier this month that the camera was hidden in a heating duct and was only found by a staff member when the device fell onto the floor and they spotted a tiny camera lens. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/alfred-keating-new-zealand-diplomat-found-guilty-of-planting-camera-in-unisex-us-embassy-toilet) It was covered in a layer of dust which suggested it had been there for some time. New Zealand police found over 700 deleted files and 20 existing files on the memory card, including 19 images of people using the bathroom. Keating’s DNA matched traces found on the memory card in the camera. He now faces up to 18 months in prison and will be sentenced on 25 June.

Newsline: New Zealand naval officer on trial over secret camera in embassy bathroom

One of New Zealand’s former top-ranked military officials is on trial in Auckland charged with planting a secret camera in a unisex bathroom at the country’s embassy in Washington. Alfred Keating, 59, was a commodore in the New Zealand navy and was one of the country’s most senior naval officers before he resigned in 2018 following the allegations. He denies all charges. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/09/top-new-zealand-naval-officer-on-trial-over-secret-camera-in-embassy-bathroom) Keating was serving as a defence attache at New Zealand’s embassy in Washington when a small, covert camera was discovered in a unisex bathroom after it fell out of a hiding spot in a heating duct on 27 July, 2017. The crown alleges the motion-activated camera was positioned to capture intimate video recordings of anyone using the toilet, and the case was not one of espionage or spy activity. Crown prosecutor Henry Steele told the court that investigators began to suspect Keating after examining the buildings swipe card records, the New Zealand Herald reported. In November 2017 police searched Keating’s home in New Zealand and found searches on his laptop for the security company BrickHouse Security, whose logo was found on the hidden camera, and also searches for how to “set up” a secret camera, the New Zealand Herald reported. Keating’s Fitbit watch was also seized, Steele said, and “extremely strong scientific support” suggested male DNA found on the memory card inside the camera matched Keating’s. Ron Mansfield, Keating’s lawyer, said despite the salacious nature of the case the allegations were weak and would disappoint jurors, who had been warned to keep some matters of “national security” secret during the trial, such as the detailed lay-out of the embassy in Washington. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.