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New Zealand hopes to avoid China economic blowback as it mulls joining Aukus

“I do not expect economic coercion from stating what they promised me we had a right to do – state our own independent foreign policy,” he said in an interview late Wednesday in Wellington. “We’ve got a commitment out of them that they respect that. My response to China is you say you respect it and I trust you to respect it.”

Aukus, which aims to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific, involves London and Washington helping Canberra to field a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. New Zealand has a nuclear-free policy and is only interested in pillar two of the pact, which relates to cooperation in strategically sensitive areas including quantum computing and artificial intelligence.

Peters and Defence Minister Judith Collins reaffirmed New Zealand’s interest in the pact in February, and since then Australian officials have been in Wellington for further discussions.

“Aukus is about looking after our own defence, playing our role,” Peters said. “It’s our business.”

Peters believes New Zealand has taken its Western partners for granted and is aware of frustrations among members of the Five Eyes information-sharing alliance over the previous government’s reticence to criticise China on some issues of disagreement. He wants to be more responsive and decisive.


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China knows New Zealand is “a country that believes in two things, democracy and the rule of law, and above all the rule of law between nations,” Peters said. “They would know from our stance that we retain the right to say what we think and feel.”

“We have made it clear to China that we expect them to respect Unclos,” Peters said, referring to the United Nations Convention