Peters, Ardern mum over secret meetings
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