N Korea in­trigue in mys­tery deal

The Dominion Post - - Politics - VER­NON SMALL IN MANILA

New Zealand ap­pears to have joined a mys­te­ri­ous ‘‘re­gional ini­tia­tive’’ at the re­quest of the United States, but the mat­ter is be­ing kept un­der wraps.

There have also been sug­ges­tions the ini­tia­tive could in­clude a trip to North Korea, but For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Win­ston Peters would not con­firm any­thing, say­ing: ‘‘I can’t tell you about the de­tails of it.’’

How­ever, it is un­der­stood the more likely sce­nario is a plan to ad­dress the Myan­mar cri­sis, where the sit­u­a­tion with the per­se­cuted, and es­sen­tially state­less, Ro­hingya peo­ple has con­tin­ued to es­ca­late.

The is­sue came to light af­ter US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son sought a meet­ing with Peters dur­ing the East Asia Sum­mit in the Philip­pines on Tues­day.

It was the se­cond dis­cus­sion Peters has had with Tiller­son in re­cent days, af­ter an in­for­mal meet­ing on the fringes of the Apec meet­ing in Viet­nam.

‘‘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,’’ Peters said.

It was to do with the re­gion ‘‘and ini­tia­tives com­ing in the fu­ture’’ and Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern had been ad­vised.

But asked if it re­lated to US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s tweet say­ing he would be mak­ing ‘‘a ma­jor state­ment from the White House upon my re­turn to DC. Time and date to be set’’ Ardern said: ‘‘One would be un­wise to pre­dict the na­ture of any of Pres­i­dent Trump’s tweets’’.

The an­nounce­ment was made near the end of a busy day for Ardern that in­cluded the East Asia Sum­mit, where she fo­cused on re­gional se­cu­rity par­tic­u­larly ‘‘the need for all ac­tions short of mil­i­tary ac­tion’’ when it came to North Korea.

She said it was in New Zealand’s in­ter­ests to en­cour­age sanc­tions against North Korea and that they are en­forced across the re­gion.

"One would be un­wise to pre­dict the na­ture of any of Pres­i­dent Trump's tweets." Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern on whether Trump would an­nounce the ini­tia­tive in an up­com­ing state­ment.

Ardern set out New Zealand’s fo­cus on a so­lu­tion to the South China Sea dis­pute is based on in­ter­na­tional law and through con­sen­sus on a ‘‘code of con­duct’’ and also set out her po­si­tion on cli­mate change. ‘‘I see New Zealand as play­ing a role of con­tin­u­ing to highlight that in in­ter­na­tional fo­rums where we have a voice.’’

Peters has trav­elled to North Korea in the past, and on his first day as for­eign min­is­ter he raised the is­sue, say­ing North Korea was not ‘‘an ut­terly hope­less case’’.

In 2007, Peters vis­ited North Korea as for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter un­der He­len Clark’s lead­er­ship. At the time, a num­ber of peo­ple thought New Zealand could help dis­suade the then-regime to give up its nu­clear de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme, for sub­stan­tial eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment as a com­pen­sa­tion, or as an in­cen­tive.

Peters’ trip did not achieve this, but he said it was worth the try.

How­ever, he did man­age to se­cure safe har­bour for 97,000 birds that tran­sit North Korea in their mi­gra­tion to New Zealand.

‘‘Maybe we can shoot higher this time and maybe we’ll be suc­cess­ful,’’ Peters said last month.

‘‘We need to bet­ter un­der­stand that re­gion and make our con­tri­bu­tion, al­beit as a small coun­try but an in­formed one.’’

The sum­mit also dis­cussed Myan­mar and the cri­sis that has seen the Ro­hingya Mus­lim mi­nor­ity flee­ing vi­o­lence and killing by the army and mili­tia groups.

Ardern said the gen­eral sen­ti­ment was one of ‘‘friend­ship to Myan­mar, to ex­press a will­ing­ness to sup­port them to find a res­o­lu­tion and to find a way for those who are now state­less to be re­set­tled’’.

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