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New Zealand raises concerns over China’s growing security role in pacific

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New Zealand’s Foreign Minister voiced concerns on Friday (May 3) regarding China’s efforts to expand its security presence in the Pacific Islands, highlighting potential risks to regional stability.

“China has a long-standing existence in the Pacific, but we are seriously concerned by increased engagement in Pacific security sectors,” Winston Peters said in a speech on Friday.

China has entice a string of Pacific Island states to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing and has inked a secretive security pact with the Solomon Islands.

China’s increased presence in the Pacific Islands, marked by frequent visits from police, research, and military vessels, has intensified competition for regional influence with the United States. This raises concerns about a potential return to past tensions, given the region’s history of World War II.

“We do not want to see developments that destabilise the institutions and arrangements that have long underpinned our region’s security” Peters told the New Zealand China Council in Auckland.

China is New Zealand’s largest export market, and a key customer for its dairy, meat and other products. Wellington has long been one of Beijing’s closest partners among Western democracies.

China’s growing presence in the Pacific Islands, marked by frequent visits from police, research, and military vessels, has strained relations with New Zealand. 

A 2021 cyberattack is also attributed to China that targeted New Zealand’s government computer systems. This incident, along with China’s broader military expansion in the Pacific, has heightened concerns in Wellington about a potential return to past regional tensions.

New Zealand politicians have traditionally been cautious about any comments or actions that risk China’s ire, for fear of incurring damaging political or economic sanctions like those levied on Australia and Canada by Beijing.

Earlier, Peters during an address urged New Zealanders to consider joining a landmark defence technology pact with Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

(With inputs from agencies)

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