7 Jul 2019

NZ 'resets relationship' with China - defence expert

11:58 am on 7 July 2019

A defence expert says New Zealand's relationship with China has been "reset" after Ron Mark's first overseas trip there.

Ron Mark

Ron Mark rates New Zealand's relationship with China as among its most valuable and important. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Defence Minister has returned to New Zealand after spending the week in China aiming to boost the relationship between the two nations.

Last year, Mr Mark threw caution to the wind about China - including its behaviour in the South China Sea.

"They are friends, and people we wish to have better relationships with - but there are some things that are not conducive to peace and stability that raise opportunity for miscalculations that are unhelpful," he said last year.

However, this week, he said the defence relationship between the two nations was getting stronger.

"China is a key strategic partner for New Zealand.

"Since diplomatic relations between our two countries began in 1972, the bilateral relationship has grown to become one of New Zealand's most valuable and important," he told the PLA National Defence University this week.

New Zealand and China have signed a Memorandum of Arrangement Concerning Defence Cooperation.

That covers areas of common interest, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as international peace cooperation activities.

Professor Robert Ayson, from Victoria University, described the memorandum as a "relationship reset."

He said it was "less restrictive" than people may have thought.

"This arrangement doesn't suddenly mean that it is all sweetness and light and New Zealand has lost all of the concerns expressed last year," he said.

Professor Ayson said it was significant and highlights a "functional" defence relationship between the two countries.