New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins (2-R) attends a meeting with China's Premier Li Qiang (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 28 June 2023. EFE/EPA/FILE/JADE GAO / POOL

Hipkins says New Zealand holds ‘tough conversations’ with China

Sydney, Australia, Jul 7 (EFE).- New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Friday the relationship with China, its main trading partner and with which it has geopolitical differences, requires “tough” and “honest” talks on issues such as security or respect for human rights.

“A strong, mature and complex relationship means we will have those tough conversations, just as I also raised areas of disagreement with the Chinese leadership when I was in Beijing last week,” Hipkins said in his foreign policy speech at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in Wellington.

“Our approach has always been that we are consistent in asserting our interests, we are predictable as we advance our values and we are respectful as we engage in our relationship with China,” the prime minister said.

In his speech, which was posted on the government’s website, Hipkins underlined that while New Zealand had an “independent” foreign policy, it did not mean they were “neutral.”

In this regard, Hipkins stressed that his government had “chosen the path of open and honest engagement” with China, whose growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region is seen as a matter of concern by other countries in the region.

Hipkins’ remarks come nearly a week after his visit to China with a large business delegation, during which he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Hipkins also described the Five Eyes intelligence sharing partnership between New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States as “a cornerstone of New Zealand’s security.”

“Because we share with those countries bonds of history and fundamental democratic values, we are strengthening our policy dialogue across a range of areas where we share common interests,” said the prime minister.

“As a country, we may be small, but we are not bystanders. We chart our own course, with decisions that are in our national interest,” he said. EFE