Invasion of Ukraine: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warns of China ‘piggybacking’ as siding with Russia
Speaking in Japan, the second destination after Singapore of his first overseas trip since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ardern called for de-escalation and warned against painting China – our most major trading partner – as on the side of Russia.
“It’s Russia that we should focus on here,” she told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday.
“We have seen statements from China articulating their support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Ukrainian nation and that in my mind is an acknowledgment of the threat this war has posed against them and their territorial integrity.
“What you will continue to see us encouraging is diplomacy, dialogue and de-escalation. We are doing all we can to support these efforts without direct actions with Ukraine and against Russia.
“We also support broader de-escalation. We are all worse off if there is a situation where China is locked into a position where it is seen as only aligned with Russia. Let’s continue the dialogue and ensure- us that we don’t have that situation.”
Ardern travels to Singapore and Japan, New Zealand’s fourth and fifth largest trading partners, respectively, to let them know we are open for business. But it is also a chance for Ardern to discuss regional strategic issues.
His comments came a week after the NATO military alliance of 30 countries from Europe and North America agreed to ‘step up’ and help New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea to combat “the growing influence of China”.
“Not just China,” Ardern said Thursday, when asked what regional strategic issues she would discuss with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. She said they would talk about the “general disruption we are currently seeing in our rules-based international order”.
“We have, in many ways, common values with Japan. I know they are as troubled as we are by what is happening in Ukraine and you have seen a very strong response from Japan to this action. So without no doubt, we’ll be discussing this, what it means for the world and what it means for our region.
“When it comes to relations with China, each country will have its own experience. But what we see shared in many examples is that we have seen growing affirmation in our region and if we see that in our region , we will be seeing it in a number of other areas, and I know for sure that Japan will take that into account and have talked about it.”
Anne-Marie Brady, professor at the University of Canterbury, expert on Chinese politics and author of the controversial article magic weapons who highlighted China’s “expanded foreign influence activities” during the time of President Xi, told Newshub that China’s pact with the Solomon Islands is a “game changer”.
“If a hostile power has a base on these islands, it could blockade our wider Pacific seas like Japan tried to do in World War II,” Brady told Newshub Live at 8 p.m.
“They could cut us off from military support from the United States or other countries we partner with. They could also prevent New Zealand and Australia from moving up into Asia or the Indo-Pacific region to defend themselves and work with other partners.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare defended the deal, saying its aim is to diversify the country’s security ties “to improve the quality of life” and “to address soft and hard security threats to which the country is facing”.
“I call on all friends and partners of our neighbors to respect the sovereign interests of the Solomon Islands, with the assurance that the decision will not have a negative impact or undermine the peace and harmony of our region,” Sogavare said.
Ardern said on Thursday that she would prefer the Solomon Islands to discuss the issue with the Pacific Islands Forum.
“We have made clear our recognition of the sovereignty of the Solomon Islands, but ask them to at least allow the Pacific Islands Forum to meet and discuss the matter together.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is also concerned about the deal.
“There’s a lot of influence in the Pacific and there’s a lot of pressure on other Pacific countries around our region and what they need to understand is that I’m going to work with them.”