NATO's Indo-Pacific partners; Tim Watts, Australia's Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs; Kyoto Tsuji, Japan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General; Winston Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Taeyul Co, Korea's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters is now going to Washington next week for talks with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.

He is currently in Brussels at a NATO summit.

The visit, with programmes in New York and Washington D.C., will focus on major global and regional security challenges and includes meetings with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UN Secretary General António Guterres.

“Our travel this week to Egypt, Poland, Belgium and Sweden has highlighted the challenging strategic environment facing the world today,” Peters said this morning.

“Spending time in New York and Washington in the coming week will allow New Zealand the opportunity to engage with the leadership of the United Nations and senior counterparts in the United States on pressing regional and global security issues.

While in New York, he will address the UN General Assembly on New Zealand’s deep concerns about the situation in Gaza. While in Washington D.C. Mr Peters will also have a programme of calls on Capitol Hill.

The Washington talks are also likely to include Blinken’s deputy, Kurt Campbell, who only yesterday was talking up the AUKUS Australia-US-UK nuclear submarine project.

He told a Washington think tank yesterday the submarines could play a decisive role against China in any conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

It would seem highly likely that AUKUS and New Zealand’s potential involvement will be raised with Peters in Washington next week.

Asked at the think tank, the Centre for a New American Security, specifically whether Japan, Canada and New Zealand might join Pillar Two of the AUKUS agreement, Campbell said he would  wait to the fall (our spring) to indicate some of the things that the US might want to say about Pillar Two.

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“I think it is true that there are other countries that have expressed an interest to participate into the right circumstances in various, development and other engagements,” he said.

He indicated there might be more on that next week when Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visits Washington.

“There also will be further engagement among the three defense ministers of the United States, Australia and Great Britain as they focus on this effort as well.

“I actually think it’s gratifying that a number of countries have expressed interest in. working with us in these common pursuits and  I think it basically underscores our belief in this general, idea of developing an architecture of allies. “

Junko Kimura – Getty Images U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell

Campbell is well known to foreign affairs officials in Wellington and has made a number of visits here.

Only yesterday he called “his counterpart” in the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to a statement from the US State Department.

“They discussed our ongoing cooperation to support a secure, prosperous, free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said.

“The parties also discussed how we can increase our coordination and cooperation to support Pacific Islands development aspirations as outlined in the Pacific Islands Forum 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.”

Peters has been in Brussels  talking defence at the NATO Foreign Ministers’ summit.

Ironically, while he was doing that, the Defence Minister was talking foreign policy to  the Defence Minister was talking foreign policy back in Wellington.

When Defence Minister Judith Collins was pressed  about New Zealand’s China policy at the meeting of the centre-right International Democracy Union she explained that New Zealand’s stance stemmed from the fact that China was the country’s largest trading partner.

The meeting was closed to media but POLITIK has been told by attendees that she argued that New Zealand had little choice but to trade with China because the United States refused to do a trade deal with us and that the deal we had with the European union was inferior to the deal with China.

She apparently also called for more US involvement in the Pacific.

What is now noticeable in foreign policy statements from both Collins and Peters is the absence of any reference to the independent foreign policy.

Instead Peters in a statement last night on his attendance at the NATO meetings talked about meeting New Zealand’s traditional allies, a phrase that is beginning to appear more frequently.

He said New Zealand was committed to working more closely with NATO partners to support collective security in a worsening strategic environment.

“The Coalition Government has made clear the strong emphasis it places on cooperation with New Zealand’s traditional partners, and NATO is a big part of that,” he said.

“Challenges to the international rules-based system, whether in Europe or in the Indo-Pacific, impact everyone’s stability and security.

“The outcome of the war in Ukraine will have profound impacts on global security, and that is why New Zealand must be prepared to do its part.”

He said New Zealand had co-operated with NATO for decades.

“But as our shared values of human rights, the rule of law, freedom and democracy come under sustained attack, our longstanding cooperation with our traditional partners must be enhanced,” he said.

“New Zealand is committed to working together with NATO partners to contribute to collective security, such as through our support for Ukraine’s self-defence.

“New Zealand and NATO are working towards renewal of our long-standing partnership through our Individually Tailored Partnership Programme. We expect to conclude this partnership in the coming months, agreeing tangible areas of cooperation.

erik@luntang.eu Talks between NATO and the New Zealand delegation led by Winston Peters at NATO hq yesterday.

While in Brussels, Mr Peters also had bilateral meetings with his Foreign Minister counterparts from Belgium, Netherlands, South Korea, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the European Commission.

He took part in a meeting of NATO’s Indo-Pacific Partners; Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea.,

It has become usual for New Zealand foreign ministers to attend the annual NATO foreign ministers summit; Nanaia Mahuta went last year and in 2022 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attended the annual NATO leaders’ summit.

Helen Clark also attended a NATO summit in 2008 but she told POLITIK in 2022 that she was careful to keep her engagement restricted to discussion on New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan.

“The key issue in maintaining the substance and perception of NZ foreign policy will be to ensure that NZ is making its own decisions based on its own values and interests and not blindly following others,” she said.

But that is becoming increasingly difficult as NATO takes a more confrontational approach to China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Addressing the Indo Pacific Ministers this morning NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said its security was not regional, it was global.

“The war in Ukraine illustrates this clearly,” he said.

“Russia’s friends in Asia are vital for continuing this war of aggression.

“China is propping up Russia’s war economy. In return, Moscow is mortgaging its future to Beijing.

“North Korea and Iran are delivering substantial supplies of weapons and ammunition. In return, Pyongyang and Tehran are receiving Russian technology and supplies that help them to advance their missile and nuclear capabilities.

“This has regional and global security consequences.

“As authoritarian powers become more aligned, it is important that like-minded nations around the world stand together, to defend a global order ruled by law, not by force.”

This is unlikely to go down well in Beijing.

But Clark and Collins have both underscored the delicate situation New Zealand finds itself in as its independent foreign policy space becomes more constricted with the pressures coming on from China and now, the United States.