Pacific region less secure amid China’s rise: New Zealand PM

HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier leaves Portsmouth Naval Base on the south coast of England, on May 1, 2021, to take part in exercises off Scotland before heading to the Indo-Pacific region. The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will leave Portsmouth later to take part in exercises off Scotland before heading to the Indo-Pacific region for her first operational deployment. Accompanied by six royal navy ships, a submarine and carrying eight RAF and 10 US jets she will replace HMS Ocean as the fleet flagship. AFP/Adrian Dennis. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

WELLINGTON, Jul 17, 2023. New Zealand prime minister Chris Hipkins has said that the Pacific region is becoming “more contested, less predictable, and less secure” as China becomes more assertive. Hipkins said it was important that New Zealand continues to engage with China to listen and to build dialogue, The Guardian reported.

“Our region is becoming more contested, less predictable, and less secure,” Hipkins said in a speech to the China Business Summit on Monday.

“And that poses challenges for small countries like New Zealand that are reliant on the stability and predictability of international rules for our prosperity and security.

“China’s rise and how it seeks to exert that influence is also a major driver of the increasing strategic competition, particularly in our wider home region, the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

The prime minister said “in this increasingly complex global environment, our relationship with China will continue to require careful management.”

Wellington has historically taken a more conciliatory approach towards China than Australia or its other Five Eyes security partners, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

But in recent years, New Zealand has become increasingly vocal on issues including human rights, the international rules based order and potential militarisation of the Pacific.

On Monday, Hipkins said a small country like New Zealand cannot work alone, and the government recognises the importance of building partnerships and inclusivity to address global challenges.

That New Zealand’s approach will often align with that of our most likeminded partners, with whom we share many common interests and values, should not be a surprise, he added.

“Common interests and concerns do not mean we will always take the same approach. Sometimes there is tactical strength in a diversity of approaches to achieve the same outcomes,” he said.

Last month Hipkins met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, as part of a visit designed to promote trade. China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner by a significant margin. Hipkins met Xi as he toured China with a large delegation of New Zealand business leaders, aiming to promote export industries.

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