WELLINGTON, 06 APRIL 2017 (XINHUA) — Defense ministers from around the South Pacific will gather in Auckland this week to discuss ways to strengthen regional security.

Fiji would be joining the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting for the first time when it convened in Auckland on Thursday, New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said in a statement.


“The South Pacific Defence Ministers Meeting will bring together the highest levels of defense leadership from around our region to address common security challenges, and to improve cooperation and coordination on regional defence issues,” Brownlee said.

“I am particularly pleased to welcome Fiji as the newest member.”

Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief would be on the agenda, alongside peacekeeping developments, women in armed forces and young leaders, and future military exercises.

“Responding to natural crises is a feature of our ongoing cooperation. Experienced leaders will share observations on improvements we can make together,” said Brownlee.

The meeting of ministers, chiefs of defense forces and senior representatives from member countries was last held in Papua New Guinea in 2015.

New Zealand and Fiji formally resumed defense cooperation in late 2014, following a normalising of relations.

The New Zealand Defence Force was heavily involved in the response to the Tropical Cyclone Winston, which killed at least 42 people, and damaged or destroyed thousands of homes and other buildings in February last year.

Other Pacific nations imposed sanctions on Fiji after Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama seized power in a military coup in 2006.

Relations thawed after elections in September 2014, when Bainimarama was elected Fiji’s Prime Minister with about 60 percent of the vote. ….PACNEWS [/restrict]