Manawatu Standard

Pmaccused of cosying up to Communist rulers


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been labelled the ‘‘West’s woke weak link’’ over her Government’s reluctance to sign joint Five Eyes statements criticisin­g China.

Con Coughlin, the defence editor of The Telegraph, a major UK newspaper, gave Ardern the title in response to Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s comments indicating a preference to look for ‘‘multilater­al opportunit­ies’’ to express interests, rather than utilising the power of Five Eyes.

Five Eyes – a 70-year-old intelligen­ce-sharing network involving Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – has made attempts to pressure China, denounce Beijing’s suppressio­n of freedom in Hong Kong, and criticise the country’s alleged treatment of Uyghur people in Xinjiang by issuing joint communicat­ions.

The US, UK and Canada have also sanctioned officials in

Xinjiang, but New Zealand doesn’t have the legal mechanisms to follow suit.

Aotearoa did, however, join 27 other countries in supporting a statement presented at the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee last year discussing ‘‘an increasing number of reports of gross human rights violations’’ in Xinjiang.

Coughlin described the move as New Zealand prioritisi­ng trade with China – or ‘‘cosying up to China’s Communist rulers’’ – over its membership of the ‘‘elite’’ intelligen­ce network.

‘‘Ardern can expect her country’s isolation to deepen further as New Zealand faces the very real prospect of expulsion from the alliance over its proBeijing stance,’’ he wrote.

The Five Eyes network last year decided to expand its capabiliti­es to include promotion of shared values on democracy and human rights alongside intelligen­ce gathering and sharing.

Mahuta has expressed her

discomfort at this expansion.

‘‘We are uncomforta­ble with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes.

‘‘New Zealand has been very clear, certainly in this term and since we’ve held the portfolio, not to invoke the Five Eyes as the first point of contact of messaging out on a range of issues that really exist out of the remit of the Five Eyes.’’

Ardern is adamant the country’s opposition to issuing joint statements isn’t a back down to China. She told Australia’s ABC News Breakfast on Wednesday that the Five Eyes group wasn’t the best platform with which to make such moves.

‘‘Those collective voices are important, but let’s make sure we do it with the appropriat­e platform.’’

She said issuing such statements­might be best coming from a wider group of countries with shared values.

While there has been no official mention of New Zealand being kicked out of the group, Australia appeared to be blindsided by New Zealand’s stance.

‘‘While no-one in the Australian government is seriously suggesting New Zealand is at risk of being booted out of the intelligen­ce-sharing network, Canberra and Washington are concerned by Wellington’s attempt to curtail its expansion. In Canberra, joking references to the ‘Four Eyes’ have only increased in recent months,’’ a story from the Sydney Morning Herald read.

‘‘. . . New Zealand faces the very real prospect of expulsion from the alliance over its pro-beijing stance.’’

Con Coughlin defence editor of The Telegraph

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