WELLINGTON, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's largest navy exercise in decades began in waters around Auckland on Monday with 600 personnel from 14 nations and five military ships from New Zealand, Australia and the Republic of Korea.
"The Western Pacific Naval Symposium Mine Counter Measures and Diving Exercise (WPNS) is a good opportunity for New Zealand to work alongside our partners to test our readiness to respond to a natural disaster in the South Pacific," Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman said in a statement.
The training scenario was set in the fictional and remote South Pacific island nation of the Barclay Islands after a devastating 8. 9-magnitude earthquake and a powerful tsunami.
Key shipping channels into the capital would be cut off and mines and explosive remnants dating from World War II would litter coastal waters.
The scenario would see a multinational task force led by New Zealand personnel deployed to create new shipping routes to undamaged coastal areas so that humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies could be delivered.
"The South Pacific region is susceptible to natural disasters. It is important New Zealand is prepared for a variety of contingencies, so we can play our part along with our partners to provide assistance when required," said Coleman.
The navy's mine clearance and survey teams have considerable experience in this area and routinely worked to remove World War II explosive remnants in the South Pacific.
The WPNS, which runs until March 7, includes personnel from Australia, Canada, Chile, China, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.