New focus on NZ’s security policy needed – China expert

Source: 1News

New Zealand needs to do more to respond to China's foreign minister meeting with his counterparts from across the Pacific on a 10-day tour, according to one expert.

Jacinda Ardern and Xi Jinping.

China analyst Rodney Jones, a principal of Wigram Capital Advisors, said that "the geopolitical standoff has moved from the South China Sea to the South Pacific" and called for a rethink of New Zealand's security policy.

His comments to Q+A on Sunday morning come after months of mounting tensions between Australia and China in the region.

In September last year, the US, UK and Australia announced an historic security deal that will see Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines. China responded by calling the AUKUS deal "extremely irresponsible".

Then, in February this year, China and Russia signed a sweeping, "no limits" partnership agreement.

Jones described the deal as "a clear military and security alignment that will last beyond the Ukraine war, and in a way, makes our region less safe, less stable, and represents a direct threat to New Zealand's interests".

Then in March, the draft of a security deal between China and the Solomon Islands was leaked. That deal was formally signed in April.

READ MORE: China-Solomons deal crosses a 'very clear line' - Ardern

And now, a new draft deal has leaked showing China wants a broad economic and security pact with 10 more Pacific nations including Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.

On Saturday, China signed a new agreement with Samoa to strengthen diplomatic relations. In a statement, the Samoan government said: "Key to the bilateral relations between China and Samoa is the adherence to the one China principle."

The 'one China' principle is a diplomatic acknowledgement of the Chinese government's position that Taiwan is part of China.

Jones said that for smaller Pacific countries in particular, the financial enticement of aligning with China could tempt them into a deal that would add to instability in the region.

"We clearly need to fortify our independent foreign policy and that means doing things we haven't done before."

"We have to think in terms of foreign policy as security first and trade second".

Jennifer Hsu, a research fellow specialising in China relations at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, appeared to endorse a different approach and said that Australia's new government engaging with Pacific nations on climate change would be attractive to them.

Comparing Australia's approach to China with New Zealand's, Hsu said: "I think New Zealand's approach is much more one of respect".

"Small nations are often great models for larger nations in terms of how foreign policy is done".