The ANZUS and SEATO Agreements


The ANZUS Treaty and SEATO are two key alliances that have played an important role in the history of the world. The ANZUS Treaty, signed in 1951 between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, was created to provide a mutual defense agreement in case of an attack by the Soviet Union. The SEATO agreement, signed in 1954 between Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and the United Kingdom, was created to provide a similar mutual defense agreement in case of an attack by China or North Korea. Both treaties were considered to be vital in preventing communism from spreading throughout Asia.

The ANZUS Treaty

Signed on 1 September 1951, the ANZUS Treaty was a direct response to the communist takeover of China in 1949. The United States was deeply concerned about the spread of communism and wanted to ensure that Australia and New Zealand would not fall victim to it. The treaty was designed to ensure peace and safety in the Pacific region, which was seen as the biggest concern at the time.


Following the end of the Second World War and the rise of communism in China and Korea, Australia and New Zealand were increasingly worried about the political stability of the Asia-Pacific region. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949, which was an agreement between America, Britain, and a number of other European countries. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the United States wanted to prevent the spread of communism and considered such agreements to be vital in this role.


It was the countries of Australia and New Zealand that initially proposed the idea of an ANZUS Treaty to the United States. Despite being initially reluctant, America did eventually accept it. The creation of the ANZUS agreement was a significant step in Australian history, as it was the first time Australia formed a political alliance that did not involve Britain. The ANZUS Treaty was finally signed in San Francisco on 1 September 1951 and officially came into effect on the 29th of April 1952. 


The exact requirements of the treaty are somewhat vague and it simply states that each member nation has to "consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific" and to "act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes".


However, since 1951, the ANZUS Treaty has only been invoked once by any of the member countries. The only time was in 2001, when Australian Prime Minister John Howard declared military support for United States' 'War on Terror’ following the September 11 terrorist attacks in America.


Since the 1980s, the United States has declared that it is no longer bound to honour its commitments to New Zealand as part of the treaty. This was due to a diplomatic event during that time in which New Zealand became a nuclear-free country and refused access to its borders by nuclear US warships.

The SEATO Agreement

The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was a regional-defense organisation. The treaty was enacted on the 19th of February 1955 and formally ended on June 30, 1977. The member countries that signed onto the agreement included Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Britain, and the United States. 


The SEATO agreement was created in response to the Korean War, which had broken out in 1950. China had entered the war on North Korea's side, and there was a real risk that the conflict could spread throughout Asia. The SEATO agreement was designed to provide a similar mutual defense agreement in case of an attack by China or North Korea.


The treaty itself stated that its purpose was defensive only, but it also included clauses that provided for mutual aid between member states. Ultimately, the agreement sought to counter any growth of communism in the Asia-Pacific region.


However, the SEATO agreement has a significant weakness: it did not have a military arm to enforce its decisions. Instead, it relied upon the armies, navies, and air forces of its member countries. Due to the size of the region involved and the complexities of the political agreements between the nations in the Southeast Asian region, SEATO was never an effective treaty. 


Both treaties were vital in preventing communism from spreading throughout Asia. The ANZUS Treaty helped to keep Australia and New Zealand out of the Soviet Union's sphere of influence, while the SEATO agreement helped to keep Southeast Asia free from communist control.

Further reading