Jacinda Ardern’s China warning after eight-year first

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The US president and New Zealand's prime minister have aired concern about China's bid to expand its influence in the Pacific during a meeting overnight.

Joe Biden and Jacinda Ardern met at the White House, marking the first visit by a Kiwi leader in eight years.

A senior US official said they discussed the need for in-person engagement with Pacific island leaders, Reuters reported.

The meeting came amid a tour of the Pacific island region by China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi that has worried Australia, New Zealand, the United States and allies in the Indo-Pacific.

Greeting Ardern in the Oval Office, Mr Biden said Washington had no desire to dictate to the region but to partner with them.

"We have more work to do in those Pacific islands," he said.

US President Joe Biden and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern smile as the press exit the room
US President Joe Biden and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern smile as the press exit the room. Source: Reuters

A joint statement after the meeting expressed concern about a recent security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands.

"The establishment of a persistent military presence in the Pacific by a state that does not share our values or security interests would fundamentally alter the strategic balance of the region and pose national-security concerns to both our countries," it said.

Ms Ardern told reporters both countries were strongly aligned "in furthering the Pacific values and the focus that Pacific island leaders have determined for themselves."

The senior US official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the two sides discussed shared concerns about the challenges faced by Pacific island nations and the need to help them deal with issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.

Eight island nations in the South Pacific are in China's sights with Foreign Minister Wang Yi's tour. Source: Reuters
Eight island nations in the South Pacific are in China's sights with Foreign Minister Wang Yi's tour. Source: Reuters

"They also had some fairly detailed discussion about the importance of in-person engagement with Pacific island leaders and the importance of the United States working closely with New Zealand and other partners as we continue to step up our efforts to engage more effectively in the Pacific," he said.

Ardern was the first New Zealand leader to visit the White House since Sir John Key met President Barack Obama in 2014.

Tuesday's meeting took on greater importance as New Zealand in recent weeks has raised concerns about China following news that Beijing had signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands.

China's foreign minister was in Tonga on Tuesday as part of a tour through the Pacific islands region.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to members of the media after meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, at the White House on May 31, 2022 in Washington, DC. The two leaders discussed security and engagement in the in the Asia Pacific region. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Ms Ardern speaks to members of the media after meeting with Joe Biden at the White House overnight. Source: Reuters

He signed agreements in Tonga for police equipment and fisheries cooperation, but Pacific island nations were unable to reach consensus in a meeting with Mr Wang a day earlier over a sweeping regional trade and security pact China has proposed.

New Zealand joined Mr Biden's Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, an economic bloc that excludes China and was designed to counter that country, during Biden's first trip to Asia as president last week.

Ms Ardern said the pact "presents a significant opportunity to build economic resilience in our region."

But New Zealand and several other countries in the region think it does not go far enough, and Ms Ardern said New Zealand would like to see the United States rejoin a regional trade pact Mr Biden's predecessor, then-President Donald Trump, quit in 2017. He has been reluctant to do so because of domestic fears that such deals could cost jobs.

The two leaders also discussed their response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine as well as gun control following several US mass shootings, including one last week at an elementary school in Texas in which 21 children and teachers were killed.

After the Christchurch massacre in 2019, in which a gunman killed 51 Muslims, Ms Ardern delivered a ban on semiautomatic firearms and other gun curbs, a stark contrast to the United States, where lawmakers and activists have struggled to address gun violence.

Reuters

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting