New Zealand foreign minister to discuss security with Chinese counterpart on Friday

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FILE PHOTO-New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong (not pictured) speak to the media following a bilateral meeting, in Wellington, New Zealand, June 16, 2022. REUTERS/Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said she will discuss concerns about key regional and global security challenges when she meets with her Chinese counterpart, foreign minister Qin Gang in Beijing Friday.

Mahuta arrived in China on Wednesday for a four-day trip, the first by a New Zealand minister since 2019, and has been meeting with business and women leaders before her meeting with Gang.

In a statement earlier in the week, Mahuta she said would use the meeting to advocate “for approaches and outcomes that reflect New Zealand’s interests and values, including on human rights.”

“I also intend to raise New Zealand’s concerns about key regional and global security challenges, including the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

China is a powerful ally of Russia and both have criticised the U.S. and NATO for undermining global stability.

New Zealand has long been seen as the moderate, even absent, voice on China in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. But New Zealand’s tone on both security and China’s growing presence in the South Pacific toughened in the past year after China and the Solomon Islands struck a security pact.

“This visit provides an opportunity to have a constructive discussion across a broad range of areas – both where our interests and values align, like that of climate change, and where they differ,” Mahuta said.

New Zealand and China’s interactions have remained largely cordial with the two countries upgrading their free trade agreement in 2022 even as Australia’s relationship with China deteriorated. China remains New Zealand’s largest trading partner.

New Zealand had a change in leadership in January and new prime minister Chris Hipkins has said very little about foreign politics or how he sees security or geopolitical developments.

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