Presence of China, US in Pacific 'reality' of region - Robertson

Source: 1News

As China attempts to grow its influence in the Pacific region, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says New Zealand's relationships there are "really long-standing".

Robertson acknowledged the presence of China and the US in the Pacific is "the reality of the region we're a part of".

"The Pacific is definitely a contested space," he remarked on Breakfast on Tuesday.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi is currently on an eight-nation tour. China wants a broad economic and security pact with 10 Pacific nations, but it appears it has failed to convince some on the bold deal.

Earlier this year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Fiji and held discussions with other Pacific leaders.

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

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".

"Obviously this is an area that's seen as important by the big super powers and that's why you're seeing their presence in the region," Robertson said.

However, China analyst Rodney Jones, a principal of Wigram Capital Advisors, has said New Zealand needs to do more to respond to Yi's tour.

Jones has also said New Zealand needs to rethink its security policy and said its interests are under threat.

The deputy prime minister described countries in the Pacific as "our friends" and "our neighbours" and said New Zealand has "very close links".

"Our job is to get alongside our Pacific partners and make sure that everything happens here is in the best interest of those countries and the people of those countries."

Robertson went on to say New Zealand's relationships in the region are "continuous" and "person-to-person contact" is ongoing.

"We have good, strong relationships and we need to keep working with our Pacific neighbours to make sure that what happens in this region is in their interests."

READ MORE: China fails to convince Pacific nations on bold deal

Asked about recent security moves in the region, Robertson reiterated New Zealand has expressed its concerns around China's policing and security deal with the Solomon Islands.

The deal could extend to military and naval involvement.

Robertson told Breakfast the Government is not happy about the signed deal and said it doesn't believe it's in the best interests of the Solomons or the wider region.

"The presence of China more generally in the Pacific is not a massive surprise … What we've got to make sure though, is that all of the countries in the Pacific are able to make the decisions for themselves and we've been a partner," he said.

"It's one of the things our partners in the region like about New Zealand is that we're there because we're a part of this region and we're going to keep building on that relationship."

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has said she hopes to visit the Solomon Islands in the "coming weeks", amid opposition claims she's been slow to act.