ANZMIN 2+2: NZ and Australian Defence and Foreign Ministers take aim at China

Line of Defence Magazine - Update

All smiles between Chinese Ambassador Wang Xiaolong and Foreign Minister Winston Peters one week prior to ANZMIN cooling. Image: Chinese Embassy Wellington.

Trans-Tasman Ministers’ meeting in Melbourne delivers a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to alliance, praising value of AUKUS and Quad, and singling out China.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Judith Collins met with Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles and Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong yesterday in Melbourne for the inaugural Australia – New Zealand Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations (ANZMIN 2+2).

In a joint statement, the ministers affirmed their commitment to strengthen the Australia-New Zealand alliance to address evolving geostrategic challenges.

“Ministers agreed all elements of both countries’ tools of statecraft need to be harnessed in support of our collective interests, stated the joint statement. “Our strategic circumstances require whole-of-government and whole-of-nation coordinated and focused statecraft, of which diplomacy and defence are both core elements.”

The ministers committed to increasing integration between the NZDF and ADF, “including through common capability, exchanges of senior military officers and increased participation in warfighting exercises.”

“We have taken note of the Joint Statement after Australia-New Zealand Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations, in which groundless accusations have been made on China’s internal affairs. We strongly deplore and firmly oppose it.”

Chinese Embassy Wellington

“Recognising the importance of the Pacific to both countries, Ministers agreed to continue efforts, in conjunction with Pacific countries, to strengthen regional cooperation and interoperability. Ministers also committed to enhancing joint deterrence efforts, including through joint exercises and training.”

The statement said that  the ministers agreed that AUKUS made a positive contribution toward maintaining peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. “Ministers acknowledged Australia’s commitment to responsible nuclear stewardship and the highest non-proliferation standard in relation to its acquisition of conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS.”

They combined in support for the Quad partnership between Australia, India, Japan and the US, stating that they “welcomed the Quad’s commitment to an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region and its positive and practical agenda to support Indo-Pacific countries’ priorities and needs.”

They also reaffirmed the value of the Five Eyes partnership as a “crucial enabler of intelligence sharing and security co-operation among trusted partners and expressed shared interest for a Five Eyes Defence Ministers’ Meeting later this year.”

Comments in the statement in relation to “The Indo-Pacific region” appeared largely to be directed at China. In addition to reaffirming “their commitment to an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific, where sovereignty is respected, and internationally agreed rules and norms are adhered to,” the ministers expressed serious concerns in relation to “destabilising activities” in the South China Sea and East China Sea, and grave and deep concerns in relation to human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong respectively.

In one of several comments seemingly taking aim at China, the statement said that the ministers “opposed economic coercion in all its forms and recognised the importance of multilateral institutions and norms which promote free, fair, and open international trade.”

They also recognised the threat faced by both New Zealand and Australia “of foreign interference and information manipulation, including disinformation, and the challenge these pose to the Indo-Pacific region more broadly.”

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Wellington issued remarks offering a stern rebuke of the statement, stressing “prevailing international consensus” in relation to the One-China Principle, and stating that matters “related to Xinjiang, Xizang [Tibet], Hong Kong, and Taiwan are purely China’s internal affairs which bear on China’s core interests, and brook no external interference. 

On AUKUS, the remarks stated:

“Like all peace-loving countries, China has serious concerns over AUKUS. The nuclear-related cooperation under AUKUS runs counter to the letter and spirit of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, and constitutes grave nuclear proliferation risks.”

“… More importantly, AUKUS is a stark manifestation of Cold War mentality as it seeks to establish a nuclear-related exclusive military alliance that targets third parties. It will not make either the relevant parties or the wider region more secure. On the contrary, it will undermine peace and stability, sow division and confrontation in the region, and thus runs against the common interests of regional countries pursuing peace, stability and common security.”

The embassy’s remarks implying that the comments made in the statement were unhelpful to the China-New Zealand relationship.

“China stands ready to work with New Zealand on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and constructive management of differences, to promote our bilateral relationship, bringing more benefits to the two countries and peoples,” commented the embassy.