When pressed by The Sydney Morning Herald and The age on why this approach hadn’t deterred Russian President Vladimir Putin and whether it would work with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Ardern said she was not the person to comment on what led to the invasion of Ukraine.
She also declined to say what New Zealand would do if its dialogue and diplomacy strategy failed and Xi invaded Taiwan.
“What I will continue to insist is that we never just make the assumption that nothing can be done… and lead nations – not naming names – to become completely isolated, because in a way you create an inevitability.
“So that’s why a New Zealand perspective is dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, but also speak up when you see things that are clearly beyond your expectations,” she said.
She later added that militarization was not necessary for the region to feel safe.
Ardern said New Zealand’s foreign policy was “fiercely independent” and relied on multilateral institutions. She admitted they were unfit for purpose and in need of reform, but said they gave an important voice to countries with small populations that would otherwise be geographically isolated.
She said one example of New Zealand’s multilateral approach was the introduction of a sanctions regime it only had when Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year.
She also said it would be wrong for New Zealand to criticize China’s newfound presence in the Pacific, and said Beijing has always had strong relations with Pacific countries.
“China has been a partner in aid and development projects in our regions for many years and it is wrong of us to call out the increased presence when we welcome the involvement of others on the terms of the Pacific region,” she said.
She said countries should always remain sovereign and added that climate change was the top security priority in the Pacific.
“Climate change is a major long-term security and development problem in the countries and territories of the Pacific Islands, threatening aspects and endangering their very existence,” she said.
Ardern’s slogan, coined during some of New Zealand’s severe pandemic lockdowns, is “Be Strong, Be Kind”.
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