21 May 2024

Government to continue with Aukus talks despite China's warning

9:51 am on 21 May 2024
Christopher Luxon makes his first address to the China Business Summit as New Zealand’s prime minister on 20 May, 2024.

Photo: Supplied / Nancy Lu

The Government is pushing ahead with discussions about the possibility of joining a security alliance with Australia, the US and the UK, despite warnings from China that it would be akin to picking a side.

Members of the trilateral deal for nuclear submarines, known as Aukus, are offering other countries, including New Zealand a chance to join the so-called 'pillar two' of the deal.

But China's ambassador on Monday warned that New Zealand should think hard about joining the alliance.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon told Morning Report different countries would have different views on Aukus, and they were "completely entitled to those views".

"We're open to exploring involvement in pillar two, there's a long way to go about what the opportunity is or isn't for New Zealand."

Officials had only begun conversations in the last couple of weeks, Luxon said, reiterating there was a "long way to go".

"Initially it'll be our officials working with the Aukus countries to see what this technology platform is under Aukus pillar 2, it's been pretty undefined, and I'm not sure that everyone still is clear about what it is or isn't."

Despite that uncertainty and the conerns from China, Luxon said the government believed Aukus was "good for stability in the Indo Pacific region".

New Zealand's relationship with China was "long standing and mature" and could withstand differences, he said.

"We discuss those differences consistently, predictably, we do that publicly or privately and that's what you can do in a mature relationship."

Labour had suggested the coalition government had moved New Zealand further down the road to joining Aukus, but Luxon is adament the position remains unchanged.

"The Government's position on Aukus hasn't changed from the previous administration's."

He would not be drawn on a timeline for a decision.

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