Signed by Australia, New Zealand and the United States, the ANZUS treaty recognised that an armed attack in the Pacific area on one member endangered the peace and safety of the others. Each signatory pledged to ‘act to meet the common danger’.
When British troops surrendered to the Japanese at Singapore in February 1942, New Zealand’s confidence in Britain’s ability to protect the far-flung parts of its empire was seriously undermined. A vulnerable New Zealand began to look elsewhere for its security.
In 1945 this country was one of 51 nations to sign the United Nations Charter, pledging its support for the principle of collective security. New Zealand also sought a powerful ally capable of filling Britain’s shoes. By then the United States was the dominant Pacific power.
After the war the Americans wanted a strong Japan as a barrier to the spread of communism in Asia. New Zealand and Australia worried that a resurgent Japan could again threaten the region. The ANZUS treaty was signed in 1951 to reassure the two countries about their protection and bolster their support for the anti-communist cause.
Each party agreed to maintain and develop military resources able to resist an attack, and to consult the others if their security was threatened in the Pacific. ANZUS remained operative until the nuclear ships row of the mid-1980s. When the Labour government announced its decision to ban ships that were nuclear-powered or -armed, New Zealand was effectively frozen out of the ANZUS treaty by the Americans.