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New Zealand PM to make first visit to China

By AFP

March 19, 2024 09:19 AM


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New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon plans to make a first trip to China as premier, his foreign minister said Tuesday after talks with Beijing's top diplomat.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in New Zealand this week meeting Luxon, his counterpart Winston Peters and trade minister Todd McClay.

Peters told reporters on Tuesday that he, Luxon and McClay have been invited to travel to China.

Dates for the visits have not been confirmed, a government spokesperson told AFP.

It would be Luxon's first visit to China since being elected prime minister last October.

New Zealand is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance alongside the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

But Wellington has been criticised for taking a softer line on China -- putting its trading relationship ahead of its allies' security concerns.

China has praised New Zealand's stance as "rational and mature", but has raised questions about security cooperation between New Zealand and Western allies.

Peters said Wang brought up the possibility of New Zealand joining the AUKUS alliance, a landmark pact aimed at counterbalancing China's rise in the Pacific.

"He did raise AUKUS with me and I pointed out the right of countries to organise their defence arrangements if they felt the need to have such arrangements," Peters added, without giving details.

"It was a very frank, candid and open conversation in that context. We understood where he's coming from. I'm certain he understands where we're coming from."

AUKUS is a pact between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom to cooperate on the development of advanced weapons systems.

China has been fiercely critical of AUKUS' plans to supply Australia with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

New Zealand's staunch anti-nuclear policy, adopted in the 1980s, means it would only be involved in "pillar two" of the accord, covering cyber warfare, artificial intelligence and the development of long-range hypersonic missiles.


AFP


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