Peters, Ardern mum over se­cret meet­ings

Otago Daily Times - - GENERAL -

WELLINGTON: For­eign Min­is­ter Win­ston Peters’ se­cret meet­ings with US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son have raised spec­u­la­tion that New Zealand could be part of a re­gional diplo­matic ini­tia­tive in­volv­ing North Korea.

It has also be­ing sug­gested their talks could have been about Myan­mar where the cri­sis around the per­se­cuted Ro­hingya peo­ple is wors­en­ing.

Mr Peters vis­ited North Korea when he was for­eign min­is­ter in 2007 in a failed at­tempt to per­suade it to give up its nu­clear devel­op­ment pro­gramme.

There is spec­u­la­tion he could be go­ing there again, this time as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the US and other west­ern gov­ern­ments.

There has been no con­fir­ma­tion of that.

The meet­ings took place at the Apec sum­mit in Viet­nam at the week­end and at the East Asia Sum­mit in the Philip­pines on Tues­day, where Mr Peters was ac­com­pa­ny­ing Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern.

Mr Tiller­son sought the last meet­ing with Mr Peters.

Nei­ther Mr Peters nor Ms Ardern would give any de­tails.

‘‘Tiller­son called, and he wants New Zealand to be en­gaged in some­thing and we hope to be able to tell you some­thing about it in

the next few days,’’ he said.

Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern had also been ad­vised.

‘‘It’s to do with the re­gion and ini­tia­tives com­ing in the fu­ture . . . but it would be re­miss of me to

di­vulge what it was about,’’ Mr Peters said.

The meet­ings have been linked to a tweet from US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump — who also at­tended Apec and the East Asia Sum­mit — that he would be mak­ing an im­por­tant an­nounce­ment when he got back to Wash­ing­ton.

Ms Ardern con­firmed Mr Peters had briefed her on his meet­ings but she would not give any­thing away when asked if Mr Tiller­son’s ur­gent need for a sec­ond bi­lat­eral meet­ing had any­thing to do with North Korea.

‘‘As the min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs has said, when we’re in a po­si­tion to do so we’ll share the de­tails of what we’ve dis­cussed,’’ she said.

Mr Peters is­sued a state­ment yes­ter­day say­ing he had for­mal meet­ings with for­eign min­is­ters from 11 coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, on is­sues fac­ing the Asia­Pa­cific re­gion, in­clud­ing the threat posed by North Korea, the South China Sea dis­pute, ter­ror­ism, and the con­flict and re­sult­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Myan­mar’s Rakhine State.

Mr Tiller­son yes­ter­day called for a cred­i­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tion into re­ports of hu­man rights abuses against Ro­hingya Mus­lims af­ter a meet­ing with civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers in Myan­mar. — NZN/ Reuters

MANILA: Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte told Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern he met her in the fi­nal min­utes of the East Asia Sum­mit be­cause his of­fi­cials told him he had to.

The can­did ad­mis­sion was the first of a se­ries of bizarre state­ments made by Duterte in his meet­ing with Ardern at 11pm on Tues­day (lo­cal time).

The meet­ing had been sched­uled al­most two hours ear­lier but the sum­mit ran over­time and other events snow­balled.

‘‘They said that I have to see you,’’ he told Ardern, who laughed awk­wardly be­fore prais­ing Duterte on his abil­ity to keep meet­ings con­cise.

In a 10­minute ex­change in front of re­porters, Duterte talked about his for­mer jobs as a city coun­cil­lor and mayor be­fore re­call­ing the time he tried to bring fresh fish through New Zealand’s cus­toms, only to dis­cover strict biose­cu­rity rules.

‘‘The only thing that’s lack­ing is you do not have the atom bombs, you don’t have nu­clear weapons there,’’ he said.

Ardern had in­tended to raise the is­sue of hu­man rights and Duterte’s hard­line pol­icy against drug deal­ers, which has seen po­lice an vig­i­lantes carry out thou­sands of sanc­tioned ex­e­cu­tions since he was elected last year.

Duterte’s com­ments opened an op­por­tu­nity for Ardern to raise the vi­o­lence and she took it, briefly.

‘‘Our po­lice aren’t rou­tinely armed,’’ she said, and went on to say New Zealand con­sid­ered it­self ‘‘a very peace­ful na­tion’’ and that she had ad­vo­cated for those prin­ci­ples and val­ues dur­ing the sum­mit.

In a fur­ther strange change of di­rec­tion, when Ardern raised new di­rect flights be­tween Auck­land and Manila Duterte said it was the first he had heard of it then im­me­di­ately switched top­ics with­out warn­ing

‘‘I don’t have any­thing against Iran. They’re friends of ours . . . frankly be­tween the Sunni and the Shi’ites that’s what’s caus­ing a prob­lem for all of them there,’’ he said, be­fore con­tin­u­ing on to thank Ardern for be­ing in the Philip­pines.

The pub­lic ex­change came to an end af­ter the two lead­ers over­saw the sign­ing of a doc­u­ment recog­nis­ing the two na­tions’ ties on ed­u­ca­tion. — NZN

Jacinda Ardern

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