Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, last Thursday prodded the likelihood of incorporating New Zealand along with other countries in the AUKUS defense pact, a move that could upset China, a significant trade ally of Wellington.
According to Blinken, New Zealand, amongst others, is more than welcome to participate in this accord, at their discretion. This comes as the Kiwi capital considers its potential involvement in the non-nuclear sectors of the shared pact between Australia, the U.K., and the U.S.
Chris Hipkins, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, expressed on Wednesday that the nation was open to discussions about its possible involvement in AUKUS, on the condition that it excludes anything to do with the construction of nuclear-powered submarines.
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Since the mid-80s, New Zealand has maintained its stance as a nuclear-free country. Now, it seems the nation’s authorities are keen to explore collaboration on defense technologies including cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and hypersonic weapons, all forming part of the AUKUS agreement’s second pillar.
Australia and New Zealand are primary allies of the U.S. in the South Pacific. However, New Zealand has recently faced accusations of prioritizing its trade relationship with China over its camaraderie with the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which includes the U.S., Britain, Canada, and Australia.
China has expressed strong disapproval of the AUKUS pact, describing it as a destabilizing factor in the region.
New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, clarified that “nothing has been agreed to” regarding AUKUS yet, emphasizing that any proposals would have to pass through the nation’s Cabinet before any concrete decisions are made.
Source: VOA News