Category : News
Author: Zane Small

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has been accused by her predecessor Winston Peters of being too slow to act as China seeks new security and trade deals with Pacific Island nations. 

It comes as the Foreign Ministers of Australia and China continue their charm offensives in the now hotly contested region in a battle for influence. 

Australia's new Foreign Minister Penny Wong was deployed to Fiji this week on a mission to win back the Pacific, as her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi travels the region offering a security deal to several Pacific nations. 

China has already signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, which stipulates that it will be able to send in armed police and warships. There are growing concerns China could use the deal to one day secure a military base.

Australia has pledged a 43 percent cut in emissions by 2030, promising to stand with the Pacific on the climate crisis. It's also increasing foreign aid to the Pacific by more than half-a-billion dollars over four years. 

"It is a new government in Australia and our message to the Pacific is clear: we're listening and we've heard you," Wong told reporters in Fiji. "What is at the heart of all this is a strong desire to play our part in the Pacific family."


Winston Peters, who was Foreign Minister in the previous Labour-NZ First administration, has criticised the Labour Government's response, on Saturday accusing his Labour Party successor of being absent on the Pacific predicament. 

"There's something untoward going on here and we needed to be far more aware of it and far more onto it," Peters told Newshub Nation. 

"Why aren't they on this programme describing what's going wrong here?"

Nanaia Mahuta refused an interview with Newshub on Saturday, the second day in a row she hasn't fronted up on the latest developments in the Pacific. 

Her office said the Pacific region is a priority for the Foreign Minister, highlighting her visit to Fiji two months ago. She also plans to meet her Solomon Islands counterpart as soon as their diaries can align. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, currently on her own foreign mission to woo the United States, is still strongly backing her Foreign Minister. 

"Absolutely," Ardern said, speaking in California on Saturday, when asked if she still had confidence in Mahuta. 

"I think if you asked our counterparts in the Pacific, you'll hear that there is a very strong relationship between not only New Zealand, but personally, with our Foreign Minister," Ardern said. 

Mahuta will have the chance to prove that at the next Pacific Island Forum in Fiji, expected to take place in July. 

Article: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2022/05/jacinda-ardern-defends-nanaia-mahuta-after-winston-peters-accuses-her-of-being-absent-on-china-s-pacific-power-grab.html
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