By Lucy Craymer
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that even “as China becomes more assertive in pursuing its interests,” there are still shared interests on which the two countries can and should work together.
New Zealand has recently tightened its tone on security and Beijing’s growing presence in the South Pacific, partly as a result of the signing of a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands earlier this year. But at the same time, New Zealand remains dependent on trade with China.
Ardern said in a speech at the China Business Summit in Auckland that while there were areas of great importance to New Zealand where the country’s views differed from China’s, New Zealand was willing to get involved.
“We will also advocate for approaches and outcomes that reflect New Zealand’s interests and values, and speak out on issues that do not,” she said.
“Our differences don’t have to define us, but we can’t ignore them,” she said.
New Zealand has consistently expressed concerns about economic coercion, human rights abuses and especially the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and advocates for democracy in Hong Kong and most recently about the potential militarization of the Pacific. On a number of occasions, New Zealand has been part of joint statements on these concerns.
Ardern added that it would not always be easy to manage the differences in the relationship between the two countries and “there were no guarantees”.
She added that she looked forward to face-to-face visits by ministers and planned to lead a business delegation there when the COVID measures allowed and that there was also an opportunity for visits by foreign ministers between the two countries.
(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; editing by Sandra Maler)