Defence Minister Andrew Little’s recent announcement that New Zealand would be “willing to explore” participation in military technology sharing – or “pillar two” – under the AUKUS security arrangement has already divided opinion.
Proponents have argued participation will enhance New Zealand’s security and help deter China in an increasingly contested geopolitical environment. Critics have suggested it would compromise New Zealand’s antinuclear commitment, undermine diplomacy and raise the prospect of a destabilising arms race in the Pacific region.
But missing from the debate so far is any clear analysis of how participation in pillar two of AUKUS might infringe on New Zealand’s policy approach to autonomous weapons systems (AWS).
That’s because of lack of clarity about two things: what kinds of technology sharing and development would be included under pillar two, and just what New Zealand’s policy position on AWS currently is.