Wellington, May 31
The leaders of New Zealand and Australia downplayed their differences over China and called for more investigation into the origin of the coronavirus on Monday after their first face-to-face meeting in more than a year.
The two leaders also indicated an Australian-born mass murderer would remain imprisoned in New Zealand.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, in the tourist resort of Queenstown. Morrison was the first major world leader to visit New Zealand since both countries closed their borders last year to keep out the virus.
Australia has taken a hard stance against China in recent years and the relationship between the nations has deteriorated.
New Zealand has opted for a more diplomatic approach at times, which some say is too soft.
But Morrison said he and Ardern had similar philosophies.
“Australia and New Zealand are trading nations,” Morrison said.
“But neither of us would ever trade our sovereignty or trade our values. We have stood side-by-side to defend and protect and promote these values. Not just on the beaches of Gallipoli but in Afghanistan and so many other places around the world." Ardern said New Zealand maintained a strong and principled stance toward China on human rights and trade, and its positions were very similar to Australia's.
She said New Zealand remained a committed member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance with Australia, the US, Britain and Canada.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the two leaders had made “irresponsible remarks" about China's internal affairs concerning Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety.
The two were guilty of “seriously violating international law and basic norms of international relations, and grossly interfering in China's internal affairs," Wang said at a daily briefing.
Morrison said Australia works closely with New Zealand in the Five Eyes partnership and many other international forums.
“I think as great partners, friends, allies, indeed family, there will be those far from here who would seek to divide us," Morrison said. “And they will not succeed.” Morrison said it was self-evident there was increased strategic competition between the US and China but that didn't need to lead to conflict. Both leaders said they hope the World Health Organisation would continue its investigation into the origins of the pandemic.
“It's got nothing to do with global politics," Morrison said. "This has nothing to do with anything other than ensuring that the global pandemic, which has caused such havoc around the world, stealing lives and livelihoods, that we understand how this occurred so we can do everything we possibly can to ensure that it does not happen again.” AP
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