New Zealand Navy chief David Proctor warned an Anzac service in Hawaii of an “increasingly coercive state” challenging freedom and prosperity in the Pacific.

Rear Admiral Proctor said: “When you look at what China is doing and their hugely significant additional spend on their military capability, particularly maritime capability, we in New Zealand can’t stand aside and say ‘nothing to see here – we will just carry on with what we’re what we’re doing’.”

Speaking to around 150 people at the ceremony in the Punchbowl military cemetery overlooking Honolulu, he said there was an uncertain global security environment in which Russia continued to prosecute an illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.

“Here in the Pacific, we are challenged by an increasingly coercive state, one that is challenging the international rules-based system and one that is demonstrating behaviours that are, prima facie, inappropriate,” he said. “The increasingly strident, coercive financial economic and military behaviour being demonstrated poses an unwelcome challenge for freedom, prosperity and peace in our region.”

Proctor said he had quoted the thoughts of “my minister” from a recent interview and it was clear New Zealand was not prepared to sit back and observe a deteriorating security situation.

“I urge you here present today, New Zealand’s friends, partners and allies and anyone else out there listening, that Aotearoa New Zealand remains as committed as ever to having a credible military capability ready to respond to those who challenge freedom, peace and the international rules-based order.”

Hawaii is nearly a full day behind New Zealand, and marking the occasion today were diplomats, military brass and around 85 U.S Marines, including a band and an eight-member rifle firing detail. The service followed the same order of those in New Zealand, but in 28C warmth, with The Star-Spangled Banner played alongside the anthems of the Anzac nations and the immaculately drilled marines firing a volley of shots as a rifle salute.

Proctor had this week visited Pearl Harbor, where the United States was surprised by a Japanese attack in 1941, and said he was personally committed to ensuring the Navy was ready to respond to any challenges.

He said he was moved by standing on the memorial to the Arizona, on which 1177 sailors died in the 07 December attack.

“There were a lot of spirits around me, and as only an old superstitious sailor can say – they spoke to me, I listened, I reflected and I shared with you my thoughts. I will not forget.”

He said there was strength in unity.

“New Zealand has a proud history of serving alongside like-minded nations in the defence of freedom and the fight against tyranny, and I expect will remain into the foreseeable future.”