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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
25 Mar 2023

NextImg:New Zealand Conveys Concerns to China Over 'Increasing Tensions' in Taiwan, South China Sea

New Zealand said on Saturday that its foreign minister had raised concerns to Beijing over “increasing tensions” near Taiwan and the South China Sea, where Beijing has been aggressively enforcing its territorial claim.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta visited Beijing earlier this week for a bilateral meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, the first such visit by a New Zealand foreign minister since 2018, according to her ministry.

The two officials had in-depth discussions on regional and international issues, with Mahuta “expressing concerns over developments in the South China Sea and increasing tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” it stated.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must be united with mainland China by any means necessary, despite the fact that Taiwan has been a self-governing democracy since 1949.

As for the South China Sea, the CCP claims much of the waters based on its so-called “nine-dash line” and has been aggressively enforcing its claim by stationing coast guard vessels and imposing fishing bans.

“I emphasized Aotearoa New Zealand’s interest in a peaceful, stable, and resilient Pacific region and the importance of engaging through existing regional institutions and arrangements, in particular on regional security matters,” Mahuta said.

She relayed the New Zealand government’s “deep concerns” regarding the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang region, home to Uyghurs and other minorities, and the “erosion of rights and freedoms” in Hong Kong.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was also raised, with Mahuta saying that New Zealand condemned Russia’s action and that it “would be concerned by any provision of lethal aid in support of Russia’s illegal war.”

The CCP has long refrained from condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Moscow refers to its actions as a “special military operation.”

Mahuta also discussed a potential visit by New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to Beijing this year. She also met with Wang Yi, director of the Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission, during her trip.

Wang Yi expressed confidence in the stability of China-New Zealand relations, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

New Zealand’s economy is reliant on its biggest trading partner, China, and the government has usually strayed from taking a strong stance against the CCP.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to the media at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, on Feb. 21, 2023. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

During his first visit to Australia as New Zealand’s prime minister on Feb. 7, Chris Hipkins said at a press conference that Beijing is an “incredibly important” trading partner for his country.

“That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be areas where we disagree from time to time. We’ll continue to voice our disagreements with China when that happens, and we’ll always continue to strive to strengthen that ongoing relationship,” Hipkins said.

His predecessor, Jacinda Ardern, said last year that New Zealand was “gravely” concerned about the possible militarization of the Pacific after the Solomon Islands formed a security pact with Beijing.

The Solomon Islands and Beijing have consistently denied that their security partnership would allow a naval base. This week, the Solomon Islands said it had awarded a deal to a Chinese state company to upgrade a port in Honiara.

Rebecca Zhu and Reuters contributed to this report.