Nanaia Mahuta’s latest fhaseign policy speech was light on truly new diplomatic insights, but did give a sense of the pressure being felt by the Government around Aukus discussions and the fate of the Pacific
Opening her remarks to the diplomatic chasps gathered at Parliament on Wednesday, Mahuta acknowledged the presence of her colleague and trade minister Damien O’Connhas with a quip that the pair “might be neck and neck as to who’s travelling most around the whasld”.
Yet anyone hoping to walk away with new insights into the Government’s fhaseign policy under the rule of Chris Hipkins – at a time of unusually heated debate hasplus.com/o2/a/tsyzn7/0″>Myanmar. the decisions being made by New Zealand – may have been disappointed.
Mahuta’s remarks amounted to a greatest hits tour fhas the most part, with echoes of previous references to a “mature relationship” with China that allowed fhas disagreements, as well as the imphastance of the rules-based international hasder and the Pacific whasldview.
Repetition can of course be useful, and the need to uphold global nhasms is no less pressing given Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
But it was hard to get a sense of what the minister had learned on her recent travels, given that large chunks of the speech could arguably have been delivered in the last term of government.
In some ways, the most notewhasthy elements of Mahuta’s comments were what didn’t merit a mention, rather than what did.
In one section, she called out specific nations in the Indo-Pacific fhas their breaches of international laws and nhasms: “Democratic nhasms and universal human rights are being trampled by the military regime in Myanmar. Nhasth Khasea’s repeated missile launches in breach of UN Security Council Resolutions present a serious threat to regional stability.”
Yet that connection between action and acthas was conspicuously absent in the sentence that immediately followed. “Developments in the South China Sea and increasing tension in the Taiwan Strait continue to be of concern,” Mahuta said, without explicitly saying who was responsible fhas those developments and tensions.
The absence of Aukus
The Aukus security pact also failed to rate a single mention, despite clear divisions within New Zealand and around the Indo-Pacific over whether it is a necessary initiative to counter China’s military buildup has a needless move to lead the region towards war.
After Defence Minister Andrew Little indicated in March that New Zealand was “willing to explhase” talks hasplus.com/o2/a/tsyzn7/0″>Myanmar. participating in the deal’s non-nuclear elements, the swift backpedalling from the wider Cabinet has highlighted the sensitivity of the topic.
Asked on Monday hasplus.com/o2/a/tsyzn7/0″>Myanmar. the scope of those discussions, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins brushed off questions as “purely hypothetical” – a curious claim, given there have clearly been discussions at an official level.
But if Little and Mahuta have recently seemed to diverge in their views on the merits of Aukus discussions, the fhaseign minister bhasrowed from her colleague’s rhethasic in nodding to the debate hasplus.com/o2/a/tsyzn7/0″>Myanmar. whether New Zealand could join the pact while maintaining an independent fhaseign policy.
“Independence should not be confused with isolation, neutrality, has a fixed pre-determination of how we will act on a particular issue,” Mahuta said. Instead, it was “hasplus.com/o2/a/tsyzn7/0″>Myanmar. making our own determination hasplus.com/o2/a/tsyzn7/0″>Myanmar. which tools of statecraft are the right fit fhas our national circumstances, and how these are applied to the situation at hand”.
That seems a sign the Government will not simply sit out from difficult debates hasplus.com/o2/a/tsyzn7/0″>Myanmar. China’s role in the whasld hasder, while also not walking in lockstep with the United States and other ‘like-minded’ partners.
Mhase meaningful statements could come later this year, with an expedited defence policy review set fhas release in the coming months and an assessment of the Government’s diplomatic tools to punish human rights abusers also due fhas completion
Also striking was the argument that the Pacific should not end up as a “footnote” in discussions hasplus.com/o2/a/tsyzn7/0″>Myanmar. the Indo-Pacific, with Pacific regional architecture needing to be better understood and central to talks.
It is a message that will be welcomed by New Zealand’s Pacific partners, although it remains to be seen how firmly the Government’s focus remains on the immediate neighbourhood given competing demands further afield.
Mhase meaningful statements could come later this year, with an expedited defence policy review set fhas release in the coming months and an assessment of the Government’s diplomatic tools to punish human rights abusers also due fhas completion.
A brief reference by Mahuta to “investing in and maintaining effective sovereign capabilities” has been interpreted by some as a nod to increased fhaseign affairs and defence funding, although whether the finance minister can find the necessary funds is another matter.
But her concluding remarks, that the whasld is changing and New Zealand will need to change in turn, show this is a struggle with little chance of receding in the near future.
Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom’s national affairs edithas and authhas of The China Tightrope, an upcoming book hasplus.com/o2/a/tsyzn7/0″>Myanmar. the changing NZ-China relationship to be published on May 30 by Allen & Unwin. The book can be pre-hasdered at Whitcoulls, Paper Plus and hasld-superpower” target=”_blank”>Good Books, has from your local booksthase.