Major issues on the table in Mahuta’s  talks in Beijing with China’s new Foreign Minister

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has left for Beijing for the first ministerial visit to China since 2019.

Mahuta is  to  meet China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang  where she  might have to call on all the  diplomatic skills  at  her  command.

Almost certainly she  will  face  questions  on what  role NZ  might  seek  to  play in the AUKUS defence pact involving Australia, the UK and the US.

President Joe Biden’s National Security Council co-ordinator for the Indo Pacific, Kurt Campbell, was  reported  this week as saying the US is looking for other working group partners now that the ‘critical components’ of the Indo-Pacific alliance have been launched.

Campbell, a top-ranking White House official, says New Zealand has been receptive to working with AUKUS in the cyber arena.

Campbell, who briefed media in Wellington  on the defence pact, said the US was now looking for other working group partners, and from his perspective the door was open for further talks with New Zealand.

“We agreed that we would launch the critical components of AUKUS, and then take steps to look at other partners,” he said.

“I will say, we’ve been gratified by how many countries want to join with us to work with cutting-edge technologies like in the cyber arena, hypersonics, you can go down a long list and it’s great to hear that New Zealand is interested.”

Under the AUKUS pact, Australia will get three American-made Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines and will build up to eight further nuclear-powered submarines domestically.

Australia  says the nuclear-powered submarines would be used to protect shipping routes to and from Australia.

New Zealand is increasingly reliant on commercial shipping hubs in Australia for transport of its imports and exports.

Mahuta’s meeting will come at the same time as China’s President Xi Jinping is set to meet Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, in what could see deepening Chinese involvement in the war in Ukraine.

Chinese involvement in the war could raise the uncomfortable question of New Zealand being forced to consider sanctions against the country, the largest trading partner for Aotearoa.

China is integral to New Zealand’s economic recovery but our relationship is far broader – spanning cultural, educational and sporting links.

“I intend to discuss areas where we cooperate, such as on trade, people-to-people and climate and environmental issues,” Mahuta said.

I will continue 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.”

Mahuta will spend two days in Beijing, where she will “engage with a range of stakeholders in the bilateral relationship”, according to a release from her office. She will also connect with business leaders and hold a breakfast roundtable with women leaders.

A release from Mahuta’s office said the visit would provide 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”.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins held out the prospect that he too might visit China later this year.

“I’m not announcing a visit today. There’s still quite a lot of moving parts for my international travel this year,” Hipkins said.

But he has not ruled it out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.