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New Zealand foreign minister seeks closer ties with Five Eyes powers

Published 12/11/2023, 12:39 AM
Updated 12/11/2023, 12:41 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters speaks during a news conference after he attended an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

By Alasdair Pal

(Reuters) - New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said on Monday he would draw the country closer to intelligence partners the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia, part of a renewed focus on security under the new right-of-centre government.

The four countries, which together with New Zealand are known as the Five Eyes, have shared intelligence since World War Two, though the alliance has come under pressure in recent years.

Peters, a former foreign minister and leader of the populist New Zealand First Party, is a coalition partner in the government led by Prime Minister Christopher Luxon's National Party leader, that was sworn in earlier this month.

He used his first major policy speech since returning to the role to promise closer cooperation with security partners.

"We intend to re-invigorate our defence and security engagement, including with the United States and our Five Eyes partners, as well as with other key security partners in the region and beyond," Peters said in a speech to the diplomatic corps in Wellington on Monday.

New Zealand has long been seen as a moderate or even absent voice on China in the Five Eyes alliance.

The country's tone on security and China's growing presence in the South Pacific toughened last year under the previous Labour government after China and the Solomon Islands struck a security pact.

New Zealand's military is also struggling with aging equipment and personnel shortages, with three of the country's nine navy ships are idle because of staff shortages.

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"We know that we will need to have greater presence, and we will need to bolster sovereign capabilities that enable us to act in a more challenging geo-strategic environment," Peters said.

"And we are focused as a priority on acquiring the resources necessary to bolster those capabilities."

Peters also said the government plans to improve relations with Asian nations, singling out India as one country with which Wellington desires stronger ties.

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