Puna’s meeting with Brown was part of a move towards strengthening ties with the US, with the government looking at diversifying and broadening cooperation arrangements relating to security issues.
The meeting took place in Wellington during Puna’s recent state visit to New Zealand and also saw the two sharing perspectives on regional security issues.
Before their meeting, a Cook Islands perspective on security had been outlined by Puna during his address at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, in which the prime minister noted that the Cook Islands must be “constantly vigilant to the growing threats to international security resulting from terrorism, transnational crime, drug and human trafficking”.
“While we are fortunate in our insular region, being relatively distant from many such threats to our security, we must never be complacent,” he added. “It will be important to intensify cooperation in security and we will need to put in place protective measures to enable us to anticipate and – if necessary – respond to such threats.”
This most recent meeting follows the inaugural visit to the Cook Islands by Brown in November 2017, and precedes an upcoming visit by a senior US Defense Attache to Rarotonga later this month.
Relations between the Cook Islands and the US go back to at least the early 1900s. During World War Two the US military maintained a base in the Cook Islands, constructing several airfields that are still in use today.
In recent years, the Cook Islands and the US have concluded a number of treaties and agreements, including the Maritime Interdiction Cooperation Agreement, signed in 2008, which outlines a cooperation agreement in joint maritime surveillance operations between the Cook Islands and the US.