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New Zealand raises South China Sea, Taiwan tensions with China during foreign minister's visit
New Zealand raises South China Sea, Taiwan tensions with China during foreign minister's visit
Asia
New Zealand raises South China Sea, Taiwan tensions with China during foreign minister's visit
by DZRH News19 March 2024
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters poses for a picture in Wellington, New Zealand January 31, 2024. REUTERS/Lucy Craymer/File Photo

By Lucy Craymer and Stella Qiu

WELLINGTON (Reuters) -New Zealand shared with China its concerns about rising tensions in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait during a meeting on Monday between the foreign ministers of both countries.

The meeting between Wang Yi and Winston Peters was their first in person since New Zealand elected a conservative government in October 2023. They had previously spoken by phone.

The ministers discussed trade, business and security in the Pacific as well as "areas of difference" including human rights and the situation in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, according to a statement issued by Peters after the meeting.

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"We also highlighted New Zealand and China's shared interest in a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region and raised concerns over increased tensions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait," the statement added.

China claims democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory, over the island's strong objections, and also lays claim to many areas of the South China Sea, which are disputed by the Philippines and other countries. Beijing is also boosting its strategic interests in the Pacific Island countries, efforts the United States and Australia are trying to counter.

China is also New Zealand's top trading partner. New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported two-way goods and services trade totalled NZ$38.67 billion ($23.55 billion) in the year ended September 2023.

New Zealand has long been seen as a moderate or even absent voice on China in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes the United States, but in recent years has spoken up about what it considers to be concerning actions by China.

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Before the meeting, Wang said China was willing to strengthen strategic communication with New Zealand on international and regional issues.

"We will work together to maintain peace and stability in the region and the world," Wang said, adding that the relationship between New Zealand and China continues to have a "healthy momentum".

Wang also met New Zealand's Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. He flies to Australia on Tuesday to meet his Australian counterpart, Penny Wong, and hold a roundtable with business leaders in Canberra on Wednesday.

($1=NZ$1.64)

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(Reporting by Lucy Craymer: Editing by Neil Fullick and Miral Fahmy)

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