Pacific regional security on the line amid relationship breakdown with US

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Regional security is on the line following a relationship breakdown between some Pacific countries and the United States.

The future of a defence grouping of some Pacific countries, France and the US is at risk.
Source: 1 NEWS

Protecting the vast Pacific Ocean from criminal elements is no easy task, as island nations rely on bigger partners for help.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said countries like the US and France are, "big players in this region" and are very important to New Zealand.

This alliance is on the rocks as New Zealand, Australia, the US and France, known as 'Quad', use their air force and navy for fishing surveillance operations.

The group has always relied on a regional data base, showing details and locations of all boats and vessels in the Pacific, in any given time.

But now some Pacific countries are refusing to let the US have any details of what is going on in their sovereign waters.

If you don't have everybody cooperating... then you don't succeed"
Murray McCully

In a statement, a US government spokesperson said they need the foreign fisheries database to conduct their surveillance operations.

They said restricting access to some data will hinder the effectiveness of patrols in the Pacific.

1NEWS understands the US is threatening to walk away from Quad, and that is worrying New Zealand officials as it is an important alliance at both a political, and defence level.

"I'd be very disappointed if we couldn't see some progress quite quickly now. The ongoing flow of information, the ongoing cooperation is critical."

While the Pacific nations and the US are trying to find a resolution, the problem is some island countries do not trust how the US is using the often commercially sensitive data.

Professor Robert Ayson of the Centre for Strategic Studies said there may be concerns, "the bigger players aren't sensitive to the needs of the individual countries, that they may be trying to set the adgenda".

As well as catching illegal fishing boats, information sharing has led to the interception of major drug hauls.

"If you don't have everybody cooperating, sharing information and acting inter operatively as well, then you don't succeed," Mr McCully said.

Whether Quad succeeds will be a matter of trust.

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