Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has wound up a face to face meeting with China's President Xi Jinping in which Xi said China saw New Zealand as an "important partner and friend".
The meeting in a hotel on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Bangkok was scheduled for 20 minutes, but went for longer.
In his translated opening comments, President Xi also said he thanked Ardern for her statements that New Zealand had an independent foreign policy, and said the China-NZ relationship had delivered benefits to both countries.
"You have said on multiple occasions that New Zealand is committed to an independent foreign policy and that China - New Zealand relations are one of the most important pairs of bilateral relationships involving New Zealand. And that the two sides need to conduct cooperation in areas of converging interests. I highly appreciate that."
He noted it was the 50th year of China-New Zealand relations, and the relationship was one of "sound and steady growth". "Cooperation has delivered benefits to our two peoples."
He said that strong relationship also aided peace and stability, and the partnership should be taken "to a higher level".
In response, Ardern said while the two countries had different world views and political systems: "we will continue to address where we have those differences in a consistent and predictable way."
She said both countries benefited from a stable and secure region, and international law and norms had served the region well. "But they are being tested now."
Media were then moved out of the room by the China delegation before she could finish.
Prior to that, Ardern said she remembered fondly her visit to China in 2019. "This is a significant time for us to be meeting as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations."
She said the two countries cooperated in trade, agriculture and climate change "and I'm looking forward to today discussing some areas we can deepen some of that cooperation".
Security and the Covid-19 protocols around the meeting were tight. All those present had to have PCR tests ahead of it, N95 masks were required, and hand sanitiser sprayed on everybody entering the hotel.
It was Ardern's first meeting in person with Xi since early 2019 when she travelled to Beijing - that was her first, and as yet only, visit to China since becoming PM in 2017.
The pair met soon after Xi had given a statement at the APEC summit, saying the Asia-Pacific region should not become "an arena for big power contest".
"Unilateralism and protectionism should be rejected by all; any attempt to politicise and weaponise economic and trade relations should also be rejected by all," Xi said.
"No attempt to wage a new cold war will ever be allowed by the people or by our times."
North Korea missile leads to meeting on sidelines
Several Asia-Pacific leaders including Ardern broke away from their meeting today to condemn North Korea after it test fired an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Separately, police fired rubber bullets to disperse anti-government protesters as the APEC summit host, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, was opening the conference.
US Vice President Kamala Harris called an emergency gathering of leaders from Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada and New Zealand on the sidelines of the summit after North Korea carried out the missile test just an hour before its inauguration.
"This conduct by North Korea most recently is a brazen violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions," she said at the meeting. "It destabilises security in the region, and unnecessarily raises tensions.
Thailand's Prayuth earlier urged participants at the summit to seek sustainable growth and development after economic and social challenges from Covid-19, climate change and geopolitical rivalries.
"We can no longer live like we did. We need to adjust our perspective, ways of life and ways of doing business," he said to an audience that included Harris and President Xi.
Prayuth did not refer to North Korea's missile, which Japanese officials said landed just 200km off Japan and had sufficient range to reach the mainland of the United States.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is in Bangkok for the APEC meeting, told reporters that North Korea had "repeated its provocations with unprecedented frequency".
Earlier, Ardern started with a formal session with the Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who has just hosted the G20 summit.
- RNZ / Reuters