Yes, Mahuta has been mute on China’s Pacific manoeuvres, but maybe she awaits a steer from our White House-bound PM

National’s  Gerry  Brownlee  had  a  free   hit  on Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta,  whom  he  sees as   missing  in  action as  China  makes its  moves  to  become a dominant power in  the  Pacific.  These moves – potentially – pose a  security threat  to  Australia  and  New Zealand.

While  foreign  affairs  experts  are  expressing  alarm  and calling  on  the  government  to  urgently repair NZ’s  run-down defences, specifically  equipping  our  army  with  missiles  and  drones, there  is  silence  from both  Mahuta and Defence  Minister Peeni Henare.

Brownlie  says Mahuta

“….needs to front up and explain what she’ll be doing to salvage New Zealand’s relationship with the Pacific.

“Last week, we heard that China is seeking a sweeping agreement with ten Pacific Island countries, covering everything from national security to climate change and education. Three countries have already signed up or indicated their support; the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Samoa.

“Since this news, the US’ top official for the Indo-Pacific has been on the phone to the Fijian Prime Minister, and the Australian Foreign Minister flew to Fiji within days of her appointment to reiterate Australia’s position as a ready and willing partner.

“While our traditional partners are out engaging with the region and demonstrating their ability to meet all the needs of the Pacific, Minister Mahuta and this Government have gone radio silent. No media, no visible engagement, not even a tweet.”

Brownlie said it was deeply concerning that our Pacific neighbours were seriously considering, and even participating in, such a far-reaching agreement with China.

Mahuta must urgently provide a plan for the Government’s response and prevent our neighbours looking elsewhere to have their needs met, he said.

Point  of  Order  wonders  whether  Mahuta is  waiting  for  a  lead  from  her   boss,  who  is  now  in  Washington  for  a  long-awaited  parley with  President  Joe  Biden.

That meeting has  taken  on  a new  significance in the  wake   of  China’s  latest manoeuvres in the Pacific, although   strangely   there  has been no comment   reported   from NZ’s  leader  on  whether  the  China  threat has become top  of the  agenda.

The  accompanying  press  corps   have  been so  besotted  with Jacinda  Ardern’s remarkable popularity in  the  US,  as  they  see  it, that    security  issues   seem to be overlooked.

Yet  NZ  now  needs  the  USA’s protective  umbrella  as  never  before  in  the modern  era.

For  long  enough, NZ   has been seeking   to re-engage  with the US  after  – in effect – being  expelled  from  Anzus  following the  adoption of a nuclear-free policy by  the Labour  government led by David  Lange  back in the 1980s.

The   previous  National  government  led  by  John  Key strived to revitalise the  NZ-US relationship   and,  while  Barack Obama  was  in the  White  House, it  became  warm  enough  for US  warships  to  resume   visiting  NZ  ports.   But  there  has   been  little  movement   on  reviving  NZ’s  membership  of  ANZUS.

Now  NZ  is  confronted  by  the  prospect of  China’s military  might being  extended  to  bases  in  the  Pacific.

Point   of   Order  believes  Joe  Biden  – who  only   last  week  was  seeking   to  strengthen  the US framework  of  Indo-Pacific  alliances – is  acutely aware of the   threat emerging  in  the Pacific  and   could  be  willing   to entertain  any  initiative  proposed  by  NZ.  But  if  the  Ardern  government has  one  in  mind  it  does  not  seem to have briefed  any  of  the  journalists in  the  PM’s  party.

In  any  case it  might   be  drawing  a long  bow  to  suggest  a  Labour  government   would  want  to  shelter  under the   US  nuclear  umbrella.

But the hard fact  is this  country   stands   virtually  defenceless.   Its  only  ally  is  Australia.

May we hope   that Biden  would  give  the  same  commitment to NZ  as  he  did last week  in  Tokyo to  defend Taiwan against  any  attack?

That  would  be a  real  diplomatic  triumph for  Ardern.

2 thoughts on “Yes, Mahuta has been mute on China’s Pacific manoeuvres, but maybe she awaits a steer from our White House-bound PM

  1. “Biden is acutely aware”? Have you no compassion, the man is senile. Biden “misspoke” on Taiwan and his aides have been winding it back ever since. As Ukraine shows, these are very dangerous times. Labour governments have however left New Zealand without alliances and with pitiful defences. This government is not up to the job of defending our interests, starting with the 4th largest EEZ in the world. No wonder Mahuta and Ardern are silent.

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