The release of a new defense strategy paper by New Zealand, marking a shift towards greater coordination with the US and Australia on security issues, prompted a stern response from Beijing on Monday.
While Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have made efforts to steer clear of criticizing China by name when discussing territory disputes in the South China Sea, the new defense statement does so explicitly.
In addition to China, the paper also singles out Russia as representing a threat to the international community, according to a report in New Zealand news website Stuff.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in response to the statement that China “urges New Zealand to correctly view the relevant issues, correct its wrong words and actions, and do more things that are beneficial to the mutual trust and cooperation between the two countries.”
“China’s construction on its own territory in the South China Sea is completely appropriate and legal,” Hua added. “No one has a right to thoughtlessly levy criticisms.”
Meanwhile, it was reported this week that New Zealand announced a US$1.6 billion purchase of US-made maritime patrol aircraft. The deal includes four Boeing P-8A Poseidon planes, which are used to conduct anti-submarine warfare as well as in intelligence gathering.
The purchase “strengthens the coalition Government’s Pacific Reset by providing a maritime patrol capability with the significant range and endurance needed to assist our partners in the region,” a statement from New Zealand Defense Minister Ron Mark said, per CNN.
Foreign Minister Peters disregarded China’s response to the shift in defense strategy, saying at a news conference announcing the aircraft deal that “we’re not here to make people happy. We’re here to be responsible international citizens doing our best to preserve the neighborhood in which we live and to preserve our sovereignty.”
China’s Global Times pushed back on what it called a misguided and counterproductive policy pattern led by Washington, saying that China’s role is welcomed by most in the region.
“China’s role in the South Pacific is actually welcomed by a majority of countries there. China has emerged as a major donor in the South Pacific, including in Forum countries Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, instilling momentum to the region’s development. China provided $1.8 billion in aid and loans to South Pacific nations between 2006 and 2016, according to media reports,” the state-owned news outlet wrote.