Meeting with the Chinese president “constructive” according to Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has returned from a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping with an invitation to start working on dates for a visit to Beijing and after asking China to do what it can to resolve the conflict in Ukraine and North Korea’s use of ballistic missiles.

Ardern met Xi at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Bangkok last night – a meeting that was supposed to last 20 minutes but ended up taking 50 minutes.

She said afterwards that it was a “constructive” meeting and that she had raised New Zealand’s long-standing concerns about human rights in China – but the main topics of discussion were the issues of the day, notably Russia and North Korea.

The meeting came just hours after North Korea fired a ballistic missile into Japanese waters, 200 km off its shores, sending Ardern to an urgent meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris, and the leaders of Japan, South Korea and Canada. and Australia to discuss the issue.

In his opening remarks, Ardern said the two countries enjoy a stable and secure region, and international laws and standards have served the region well. “But they are being tested now.”

The media were then removed from the room by the Chinese delegation before they could finish.

Ardern then said she encouraged China to use its influence and access to Russia and North Korea to help resolve regional and international security issues.

Ardern wouldn’t say what Xi’s response to that was, saying she didn’t want to speak on his behalf, but stressed China’s overall policy of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs. “I just explained why I think influence is important.”

“We don’t pretend for a moment that, whether it’s the war in Ukraine or the tensions we see with North Korea, that China is somehow at the center of this as a protagonist. No way.

“What we see though is that China is a nation of influence. And in a situation where we are asking everyone to use all possible levers to bring peace and stability to end the conflict, we will call on everyone we believe has influence to use it for the peace and stability we need.

China issues statement after Ardern meeting, says China wants ‘peace in the Pacific’

A statement released by China after Xi’s meeting with Ardern repeated Xi’s opening remarks that “China regards New Zealand as an important partner and friend.”

“President Xi pointed out that with different social systems, stages of development, histories and cultures, it is natural for China and New Zealand to have differences on some issues, but these differences should not be allowed to define or affect the bilateral relationship.

“As comprehensive strategic partners, China and New Zealand should enhance communication and mutual trust, and take into account each other’s core interests and major concerns to ensure that this relationship is enduring and develops on the right way.”

The lengthy statement does not mention Ardern’s comment on Russia or North Korea, but refers to the Pacific region and concerns about competition and rivalry therein.

“China has never sought hegemony in history; it does not now and never will in the future. China’s policy towards Pacific island countries always aims for peace, development and cooperation. China will work closely with New Zealand to promote peace, stability, development and prosperity in the Pacific Islands region.

He ended by saying that New Zealand was “committed to intensifying communication and mutual understanding with China”. New Zealand stands ready to engage extensively with China on South Pacific affairs and to contribute to prosperity and stability in Asia-Pacific.

In his opening remarks, Xi described New Zealand as “an important partner and friend” and said the relationship contributes to peace and stability, and the partnership “should be taken to a higher level. “.

In his translated opening comments, President Xi also said he “highly appreciates” Ardern’s commitment to New Zealand’s longstanding independent foreign policy – a stance that China has previously “reiterated”. to New Zealand when it felt it was too close to the United States. on a problem. He said China-New Zealand relations have brought benefits to both countries.

“You have said many times that New Zealand is committed to an independent foreign policy and China-New Zealand relations are one of the most important pairs of bilateral relations involving New Zealand. And that the two parties should pursue cooperation in areas of converging interests. I very much appreciate that.

Xi had noted that it was the 50th anniversary of China-New Zealand relations and that it had seen “healthy and steady growth”.

“The cooperation has brought benefits to our two peoples.”

Ardern said she also raised New Zealand’s longstanding concerns about China: Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and, more recently, the Taiwan Strait.

Ardern said these were issues raised by New Zealand consistently and predictably, and China’s position was also consistent.

She said she didn’t necessarily expect such meetings to resolve major issues, but it was important to be able to have conversations in a “respectful way.” “I am delighted that we were able to have a constructive conversation. We spoke openly and frankly, and we were able to take time.

Security and Covid-19 protocols around the meeting were strict. Everyone present had to take PCR tests before, N95 masks were required and hand sanitiser was sprayed on everyone entering the hotel.

It was Ardern’s first face-to-face meeting with Xi since early 2019, when she visited Beijing – it was her first and so far only visit to China since becoming Prime Minister in 2017.

The pair met shortly after Xi made a statement at the Apec summit, saying the Asia-Pacific region should not become “an arena for great power struggle”.

“Unilateralism and protectionism must be rejected by all; any attempt to politicize and militarize economic and trade relations must also be rejected by all,” Xi said.

“No attempt to wage a new cold war will ever be allowed by the people or by our times.”

The couple also met shortly after Ardern was called in for an emergency meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris and other leaders from Australia, Japan, Korea and Canada to discuss developments in North Korea after firing a ballistic missile into Japanese waters. , about 200 km from its coast.

In her remarks, Ardern said she condemned the actions — and expressed concern over North Korea’s escalation in launching missiles — and her pledge the day before to South Korea’s prime minister that New Zealand would maintain sanctions against North Korea.

“I particularly want to acknowledge the anxiety, the deep concern, the security threat, this escalation, this growing use of missiles poses to Japan and South Korea.”

Harris said she called the meeting so regional leaders could discuss “next steps.”

By Claire Trevett

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