New Zealand to Five Eyes: Focus on Spying, Not China Criticism

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Explaining the decision, the country's foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, says her country is "uncomfortable" with expanding the alliance's role, and that New Zealand should instead pursue its own bilateral relationship with Beijing.

"Sometimes, New Zealand uses its own language".

Chinese president Xi Jingping.

New Zealand said Monday it would not let the "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance dictate its dealings with its largest trading partner China, in the latest distancing from the US-led group's approach to tensions with Beijing.

According to Bloomberg, New Zealand did not release a joint statement with other Five Eyes members following the mass arrests in Hong Kong in January.

This follows the alliance's decision previous year to expand its remit beyond its core role, dating back to its formation during the Second World War, of collecting and sharing intelligence.

Mutual respect and non-interference, norms governing worldwide relations, other than forming small cliques targeting a third party, should be the key for countries around the world when interacting with others.

Just last month, the Chinese Foreign Ministry accused the bloc of "ganging up" against China after the U.S., Canada and Britain along with the European Union announced Xinjiang-related sanctions, and Australia and New Zealand subsequently backed those efforts.

A recent U.S. statement announcing sanctions against Chinese officials implicated in Xinjiang mistakenly included Australia in the list of countries imposing them. New Zealand has on occasion opted not to co-sign those statements and acted independently, which has fanned concerns that it is undermining the alliance's solidarity.

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In November, after Five Eyes criticism of Beijing's actions in Hong Kong, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: 'No matter if they have five eyes or ten eyes, as soon as they dare to harm China's sovereignty, security or development interests, they should be careful lest their eyes be poked blind'.

"New Zealand has been very clear not to invoke the Five Eyes as the first point of contact on messaging out on a range of issues that really exist outside of the remit of the Five Eyes", Mahuta said.

Mahuta's office told Reuters it couldn't provide a copy of her comments on the Five Eyes.

Sources in New Zealand say no change in the Five Eyes remit was discussed by the Cabinet and the Government does not see that press statement as a change in the Five Eyes remit either. Aotearoa did, however, join 27 other countries in supporting a statement presented at the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee previous year discussing "an increasing number of reports of gross human rights violations" in Xinjiang.

Schoolchildren clap during an English class at a primary school in Awati Township in Kashgar in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region during a government organized trip for foreign journalists on Monday.

"WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged some data was withheld from World Health Organization investigators who travelled to China to research the origins of the pandemic", ABC News reported on April 1, in a story about the NZ response.

The article also says that in 2003, London and Washington considered ending New Zealand's membership of Five Eyes in response to former Labour prime minister Helen Clark apparently scaling back its co-operation with Five Eyes because of her opposition to the Iraq war.

Australia's foreign affairs minister Marise Payne will travel to New Zealand on Wednesday for meetings with Mahuta and Ardern, the first diplomatic visit between the neighbouring countries since borders reopened both ways.

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