Pacific Security Snapshot | 31 August 2023

The security stories shaping the region

  • ➣ Joint Heads of Pacific Security Meeting in Palau
  • ➣ Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders’ Summit in Vanuatu
  • ➣ Cook Islands launches National Security Policy
  • ➣ Aotearoa New Zealand releases National Security Strategy
  • ➣ Japan begins release of treated nuclear wastewater into Pacific Ocean


The 5th Joint Heads of Pacific Security (JHoPS) meeting took place in Palau this month. Leaders in law enforcement, national security and military from across the Pacific met in Koror, along with representatives from regional security organisations including PSC Director Dave Peebles. The purpose of the annual meeting is to strengthen security relationships between partner nations and enhance information sharing and interoperability in the Pacific.

Leaders participated in tabletop exercises for the first time at a JHoPS meeting. These exercises promote open and respectful dialogue towards collaborative Pacific solutions to regional challenges, helping members identify ways to improve cooperation and information sharing in realistic scenarios.

The JHoPS joint communique outlines how JHoPs will address security challenges in the Pacific by focusing on cooperation and coordination between regional security agencies. Members agreed to establish an intersessional working group to deepen relationships between JHoPS members. This group will work towards a prospective regional treaty framework dedicated to security agencies’ collective ability to respond to security challenges, along with a memorandum to clarify the JHoPS mandate, mission and governance framework ahead of next year’s meeting in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Delegates at the 5th annual meeting of Joint Heads of Pacific Security 2023 in Koror, Palau. Photo: Jesse Alpert / Department of Defence

In Vanuatu, leaders gathered for the 22nd Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders’ Summit. The meeting of leaders from Solomon Islands, Fiji, PNG, the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) of New Caledonia and Vanuatu has been described as the “most memorable and successful” summit by MSG Chair and Vanuatu Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau. Leaders did not reach consensus on the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) bid for full membership of the MSG, however the summit communique urged the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to conduct a mission to West Papua and West Papuan provinces. The communique further noted that consultations will take place regarding a MSG Security Force as part of the sub-regional group’s security strategy, and celebrated the MSG’s adoption of the Efate Declaration on security and the Undaune Declaration on climate change.

The Efate Declaration emphasises respect for sovereignty, adherence to the Non-Aligned Movement and a ‘friends to all and enemies to none’ approach to security. Members acknowledge the impact of “major power tensions” in the region and express concern towards the “geopolitical posturing for influence in our region.” The declaration concludes with the reaffirmation of climate change and environmental degradation as the existential threat to Melanesia, which is supported by the focus of the Undaune Declaration. The declaration outlines the position of the MSG on a range of environmental security issues in the region. This stance is reflected in the endorsement of a Non-Proliferation Treaty on Fossil Fuel, observation of the release of treated nuclear wastewater by Japan with ‘deep concern’ and acknowledgement of the prospects and implications of seabed mining in the Pacific Ocean.

National Security

Cook Islands launched its first national security strategy at the Regional Workshop on National Security Strategies in Raratonga. The Cook Islands National Security Policy 2023-2026 outlines the threats Cook Islands faces in a complex security environment and national initiatives to address them. It provides a clear pathway to continue building resilience and secure a future of happiness, safety and wellbeing for Cook Islands people. PSC are honoured to support the Cook Islands government in the development and launch of this inaugural policy and will continue to work with Cook Islands through the co-development of a performance framework and action plan.

Cook Islands National Security Policy 2023-2026

Aotearoa New Zealand has released its National Security Strategy: Secure Together Tō Tātou Korowai Manaaki. The strategy outlines Aotearoa New Zealand’s security vision, outlook and interests. The priorities of the strategy include early action to prevent security threats and build resilience; working together across New Zealand society and with international partners; and leading an integrated system approach. Pacific Resilience and Security is one of the twelve core issues outlined in the strategy, recognising that Aotearoa New Zealand’s national security rests on a secure, stable and resilient Pacific. The strategy reaffirms Aotearoa New Zealand’s commitment to the 2018 Boe Declaration on Regional Security, the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Continent and working towards Pacific-led solutions to shared challenges.

Environmental Security

Japan has begun its controlled release of treated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean. The decision is supported by leaders from Fiji, Palau, Cook Islands, PNG and Federated States of Micronesia. However, other Forum Members including Niue and Tuvalu voice ongoing concern, and PIF Secretary-General Henry Puna has noted he regrets that the process has begun before the Forum scientific team has verified it is safe to do so. Days following the release, Japan’s environment ministry have confirmed that seawater tests have detected no radioactivity in the area where the water is being released.

Latest from the PSC Studio

RAMSI: 20 years, 20 voices - Episode 3

Vodcast: RAMSI: 20 years, 20 voices
The Pacific Security College celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) with our biggest vodcast series yet – Episodes 1-3 are out now! Episode 4 will be released on Wednesday 6th September.

📺  Watch Here

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