New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says the Pacific region is becoming more contested, less predictable, and less secure as China becomes more assertive.
"China's rise and how it seeks to exert that influence is also a major driver of the increasing strategic competition, particularly in our wider home region, the Indo-Pacific," Hipkins said in a speech to the China Business Summit.
Hipkins added that it is important that we continue to engage with China – to listen and to build dialogue, to pursue New Zealand's interests, and to add a voice where it matters.
Wellington has historically taken a more conciliatory approach towards China than Australia or its other Five Eyes security partners, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
But in recent years, New Zealand has become increasingly vocal on issues including human rights, the international rules based order and potential militarisation of the Pacific.
Hipkins said a small country like New Zealand cannot work alone, and the government recognises the importance of building partnerships and inclusivity to address global challenges.
That New Zealand's approach will often align with that of our most likeminded partners, with whom we share many common interests and values, should not be a surprise, he added.
"Common interests and concerns do not mean we will always take the same approach. Sometimes there is tactical strength in a diversity of approaches to achieve the same outcomes," he said.
Australian Associated Press