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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Ocean of Peace

Ocean of Peace

The contention of the two superpowers which has brought nuclear warships to our ports is fast becoming the dominant force governing developments in the Pacific. Robert Reid of the South Pacific Action Network (SPAN) examines this trend.

The Pacific Ocean - the ocean of Peace; that is how it was named many years ago. Even though this peace has been regularly broken, especially by the colonialists from Europe, Japan and America, the myth of the South Pacific as a place of peace and tranquillity has remained.

But even this myth is about to be shattered by the rivalry and contention between the two superpowers - the USA and the USSR.

Although the centre of this contention is in Europe where both sides face each other with thousands of men, weapons and even nuclear bombs, the rivalry, has spread to every corner of the globe, resulting in death and suffering as for example in the Middle East, Angola and Chile.

Now it has extended into the Pacific - the 'Last' corner of the globe - and the inevitable result will be increased exploitation and more suffering for the people of the Pacific no matter what race or nation they belong to.

The beginning of this superpower rivalry has been obvious in the Pacific for some time. Since World War II the USA has seen the South Pacific as its "sphere of influence". In fact, no other power could have challenged the dominance of the Americans in this area.

The USA has brutally exploited the Micronesian islands as a testing ground for nuclear weapons (some inhabitants are still dying from the effects of mistakes), and as bases for its war effort in Vietnam. It has incorporated Hawaii into its territory, still controls Eastern Samoa, and is doing its best to make part of Micronesia into its next state.

At the same time it has sent Peace Corp volunteers throughout the rest of the Pacific spreading American culture and values. It has offered scholarships and othe the people of the Pacific and it has often used New Zealand as a front man for its policies in the region.

However, in the last 10 or so years, a challenge has emerged to the USA's dominance in the world and therefore to its influence in the Pacific. This challenge has come from Russia who, because it has turned from a socialist state back into a capitalist state, is now seeking to dominate the earth in order to obtain cheap raw materials and to invest its capital.

Its main interest in the Pacific at this stage seems to be fishing, raw materials and places to invest. Its interest in fish is great because of the continual failure of Russian agriculture - at present Russia obtains 33 percent of its protein from fish, most of it taken from othr nations' waters.

It should not have been unexpected then to read in the Christchurch Press on May 12, 1976 that the Soviet Union had offered aid to Tonga for an international airport, the development of a fish and canning industry, scientific research, sports exchanges and other developments.

And on July 15 in the New Zealnd Herald to read that "A group of Russians has arrived in Western Samoa to sound out fishing prospects".

The USA had already been aware that this expansionism was likely to take place. For this reason it had ensured that the new governments in Australia and New Zealand dropped their demands for a Nuclear Weapons Free Pacific, which would have tied USA hands in dealing with its new rival in this area.

It was therefore not surprising to have Mr Muldoon state in the Christchurch Press of May 18 that "the Soviet Union may acquire greater influence both economic and military among South Pacific Island Nations". He was indeed echoing the concern of his American sponsors.

Clearly the USA was worried by the increasing Russian presence in "its" part of the world. This was spelled out at the ANZUS council meeting in Canberra in the beginning of August. "Broad outlines of the co-ordinated allied policy to counter growing Soviet involvement in the South Pacific were hammered out at the two day ANZUS council meeting here yesterday." The policy embraces "greater economic aid, assistance in the development of fishing industries and other industrial projects, cooperation in for formation of a regional shipping line, and help in implementing improved surveillance of the sea lanes of the area". Evening Post, 5 August, 1976.

It is therefore clear that the fight is now on between the USA and the USSR for the spoils of the Pacific. And what of the people of the Pacific? Unless we stand up and oppose this superpower rivalry, our resources will be plundered and our interests ignored.

Both superpowers out of the Pacific!

Pacific for the Pacific Peoples!