US and Chinese interests are at stake in violent Honiara politicking: NZ waits to be asked for help before becoming involved

Latest from the Beehive

Violence in Honiara – three days of looting and destruction, demands for the PM to step down  and the declaration of a nightly curfew – has prompted one of two new posts on the Beehive website since we last updated our monitoring.

Reporting on the unrest, RNZ Pacific correspondent in Honiara, Georgina Kekea, said only six buildings were still standing in Honiara’s Chinatown.

In Wellington, Acting Foreign Affairs Minister David Parker has expressed this country’s deep concern at events unfolding in  the capital of the Solomon Islands.

“New Zealand is a long-standing partner of Solomon Islands, and there are deep and enduring connections between our two countries,” Acting Foreign Affairs Minister David Parker said. Continue reading “US and Chinese interests are at stake in violent Honiara politicking: NZ waits to be asked for help before becoming involved”

Ardern and Biden keen to work together as US restores its relationships with world agencies

PM Jacinda Ardern’s cordial exchange with President-elect Joe Biden went far better than anyone dared hope. Both sides were pleased. As one US official said, they are certainly kindred spirits.

Biden wants to “reinvigorate” the US-NZ relationship which, considering the heights it reached under former Foreign Minister Winston Peters, means Wellington and Washington DC have finally put away any lingering resentments from the 1980s and the Anzus crisis.

Biden is keen to work with NZ on broad Pacific issues but, as he points out, the US will have to work with friends on the task.  When everyone circumspectly refers to “issues”, they really mean China with its diplomatic, economic and military ambitions in the Pacific.

Biden and his new Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken (a foreign policy veteran), want to try and reset the US-China relationship.

This week Australian PM Scott Morrison urged Washington and Beijing to “show more latitude” to smaller nations. Partners and allies needed “a bit more room to move” as strategic competition intensifies in the region. Continue reading “Ardern and Biden keen to work together as US restores its relationships with world agencies”

Regard for the USA has slipped among its global friends on Trump’s watch

The USA’s reputation among allies and partner countries has declined seriously, according to a poll by the US Pew Research Centre.   Gauging attitudes in 13 countries, Pew reports the share of the public with a favourable view of the United States is as low as at any time it has been polling the topic in nearly 20 years. 

In Britain, only 41% have a favourable view.  In France it is 31% and 26% in Germany. Japan registers 41%, Canada 35% and only 33% in Australia.

Pew says part of the decline over the past year is linked to how the US has handled the coronavirus pandemic.  Of the 13 nations surveyed, a median of only 15% say Washington DC has done a good job of dealing with the outbreak.

Most say the World Health Organisation (WHO) and European Union have done a good job, and in nearly all nations people give their own country positive marks for dealing with the crisis. Continue reading “Regard for the USA has slipped among its global friends on Trump’s watch”

Whatever trade gains are made in NZ-UK trade talks, we should brace to share them with Australia and the US

Trade Minister David Parker is gung-ho about getting a trade deal with the UK sewn up. He says NZ and the UK have strong trade and economic ties.

“NZ is pleased to be among the first countries to negotiate a trade agreement with one of our oldest friends”.

With a New Zealander, Crawford Falconer, in charge of the UK trade negotiating team, Parker, like the rest of the country, will be hoping for a favourable deal.

But as the UK is getting to grips with what NZ is seeking, it is also locked in negotiations with Australia and – moreover – is looking to seal trade deals with the US and Japan.  In that context, the negotiation with NZ may seem only a footnote.

For NZ, the difficulty may be that if it gets a deal done first with concessions from the UK, particularly on dairy and meat, then the UK may feel obliged to offer the same terms to Australia, and perhaps even the US.

The same day Parker was announcing the trade talks between NZ and the UK are to kick off,  Aussie Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, in Canberra, was telling Australians he was seeking an FTA with the UK and was aiming to “open up new doors for our farmers, businesses and investors”. Continue reading “Whatever trade gains are made in NZ-UK trade talks, we should brace to share them with Australia and the US”

China bypasses the govt in Canberra to engage in an infrastructural flirtation with Victoria

Our good friends from Beijing are at it again.  China has done a deal with the state of Victoria under its “Belt and Road” project.

Infrastructure and other projects are under consideration.  This has fired up the Australian Federal government —  and the United States.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, hardly China’s closest friend in the US administration, has promised action against Canberra should telecommunications become involved.

The US and several western countries have blocked the Chinese telco manufacturer Huawei from involvement in 5G developments for government agencies, notably Defence.

NZ has taken the same approach following detailed examination by the GCSB.  The problem stems from a Chinese 2017 law which requires companies to liaise with the many Chinese intelligence agencies and share any information gathered.

What concerns the US and Australia – and is being monitored from Wellington – are the Chinese tactics.  Beijing went direct, it didn’t work through the Commonwealth Government. 

We have been here before. Continue reading “China bypasses the govt in Canberra to engage in an infrastructural flirtation with Victoria”

MFAT is dealing with Trump and the world as it is on Peters’ watch, not as Kiwis might want it to be

Foreign Minister Winston Peters, despite his Northland isolation, has been working the phones with global counterparts from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pacific leaders.

His recognition that NZ has to deal with what it has and the way things are is said to have energised Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in a way not experienced in recent times.

We might think the Australians have displayed less than the true Anzac spirit and the NZ vox pop doesn’t care much for Donald Trump, but he is President of the United States and MFAT doesn’t deal with what New Zealanders might wish for.

Lambton Quay contacts tell Point of Order the US Administration has been extremely helpful to NZ on several issues including extracting cruise liner passengers who would have been otherwise impossibly stranded,  with the White House pitching in to deal with state governors, port authorities, various US agencies and unhelpful mayors. All this has been done under the radar. Continue reading “MFAT is dealing with Trump and the world as it is on Peters’ watch, not as Kiwis might want it to be”

State-sanctioned assassinations are no longer clandestine tools of foreign policy – but we wonder where NZ sits

Arguing about the difference between legitimate military action and murder has been revitalised after the White House confirmed American forces have killed the leader of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. 

The statement came about a week after initial reports that the United States believed it had killed Qassim al-Rimi.

It had little detail about the operation, but said it was carried out at the direction of President Trump.

And it said al-Rimi’s death “brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security.”

Trump was unabashed about highlighting his record of ordering the killing of terrorist leaders and other adversaries in his State of the Union address this week, citing the Army Delta Force raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader, and the drone strike in Baghdad that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most important general.

Among the issues being argued by the American commentariat,  however, is whether using air strikes to execute an eye-for-an-eye foreign policy makes Americans safer. Continue reading “State-sanctioned assassinations are no longer clandestine tools of foreign policy – but we wonder where NZ sits”

The UN is at the heart of NZ’s foreign policy, our leaders say – so where’s the fuss when Trump gazumps diplomats?

Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters – confirming that no Kiwis had been hurt during Iranian missile attacks on US bases in Iraq on Wednesday –  expressed New Zealand’s deep concern at the escalation in hostilities.

But he made no mention of the role the United Nations might or should play (at least, not in the Newshub report referenced here).

“The Government is working actively with our partners through military and diplomatic channels, and we continue to keep the security situation under close review, including implications for our personnel,” Peters said.

“Now is the time for restraint and de-escalation, and for diplomacy to take over.”

New Zealand troops were sent to Iraq – significantly – as part of a US-led coalition, not as part of a UN presence.

But the government claims to be putting the UN at the heart of its efforts to create a better world.

So why is it silent about Trump’s administration policies and practices which reflect contempt for the UN? Continue reading “The UN is at the heart of NZ’s foreign policy, our leaders say – so where’s the fuss when Trump gazumps diplomats?”

Impeachment hearings to be brought into a public arena but polls show Trump retains strong support

In Washington DC the lines have been drawn and the parties are gearing up for what looks to be a mighty contest as the Democrats prepare to try to impeach President Donald Trump. They won a testy contest in the House of Representatives on Thursday winning a motion to proceed by only 232 to 196.

Two Democratic congressmen voted against, understandably, as they are from Republican-leaning districts.

The Democrats are keen to have the impeachment process over before Christmas to prevent it spilling over into early next year when the selection process for a presidential candidate to challenge Trump.

This motion sets the procedures for public hearings and largely negates the Republicans’ argument that so far the hearings, which have produced some damning evidence on how the president coupled the supply of military aid to Ukraine (mainly Javelin anti-tank missiles) with a requirement that Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky announce investigations into  Biden, his son and other Democrats.

Should the actual motion to impeach win in the lower House, the question moves to the Senate. A trial heard before the Chief Justice could proceed. Continue reading “Impeachment hearings to be brought into a public arena but polls show Trump retains strong support”

Foreign affairs: lots of alphabet soup but NZ gets an opportunity to sup with the heavyweights

Foreign minister Winston Peters is due home on Sunday after his latest foray into the world of international conferences.  This time he has been at the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum Foreign Ministers meeting in Bangkok.

The significance of these meetings is that they attract foreign ministers from the EU and Russia through Asia to the US.  China was there – but not North Korea.

So, Peters gets to meet everyone from old buddies – Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – to others including his counterparts from India, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and the European Union.

He co-chaired the ASEAN-NZ Ministerial Meeting and met Thailand’s Speaker and representatives of the Pheu Thai Party along with Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

These gatherings with their alphabet-soup acronym titles are beginning to overhaul the annual UN gatherings in New York in significance because they have focused agendas and generally avoid the theatrics of the UN General Assembly.

Continue reading “Foreign affairs: lots of alphabet soup but NZ gets an opportunity to sup with the heavyweights”