NZ ‘not defined’ by China over Pacific relationships, Nanaia Mahuta says


Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta says New Zealand is “not defined by China”, and does not need to react to Chinese activity in the Pacific Islands in a way that “makes us look desperate”.

She was questioned on Breakfast on Thursday about Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s trip through the Pacific in recent days, during which a series of deals was signed between China and Pacific Island nations.

Australia’s new Foreign Minister Penny Wong has shown urgency in reacting to the Chinese moves. Just nine days into the job she has already visited Fiji, and flew back to the region on Wednesday night for visits to Samoa and Tonga.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta says the foundation of New Zealand’s relationship with the Pacific is very strong, and doesn’t have to reach in a way that “makes us look desperate”.

“I welcome Penny Wong’s engagement with the Pacific, because she is a new minister from a different government,” Mahuta said.

“She has to establish new relationships across the globe. But in particular she has signalled three things: She wants to focus on the Pacific, she wants to focus on climate change, she wants to ensure that the way in which indigenous issues are brought into Australia’s foreign policy is a part of her legacy contribution.

“On those three points we align very closely together. It is a shift in the way that Australia is reaching out to the Pacific, and I certainly welcome her engagement. She needs to do that,” Mahuta said.

“But we don’t have to rush into these things because the foundation of our relationship with the Pacific is very strong.

“We don’t take the relationship with the Pacific for granted at all. We have a very different approach, and we are not defined by China and the way that they are conducting their relationship,” Mahuta said.

“In fact, we’ve built our relationship over a long period of time with the Pacific… We don’t need to react in a way that makes us look desperate about the relationship.

Mahuta said she intended to go to the Pacific when borders allow.

Mahuta was asked what engagements she had with her Pacific counterparts since she became aware of the Chinese foreign minister’s visit to the region.

Mahuta widened her answer to include the whole of the time since she became minister of foreign affairs in November 2020.

Borders had been closed, so she had needed to make use of virtual engagements. She had gone to Fiji once borders opened, because many regional institutions were based there, she said.

She did want to visit other places in the Pacific, but was sensitive to the different border settings across the region. New Zealand was not asking for a special exemption.