Wed, Dec 05, 2018 - Page 4 News List

NZ to ramp up diplomatic presence to counter China

Reuters, WELLINGTON

New Zealand is to send 14 new diplomats to the Pacific region next year, New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters said yesterday, the latest move by Western governments to counter China’s growing influence in the strategic region.

The additional staff is to be based in Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and the US state of Hawaii, Peters said in a statement.

The move came amid growing Western concerns about China’s influence in the South Pacific through its Belt and Road Initiative, which dominated last month’s APEC summit hosted by Papua New Guinea.

“These new positions are a first step in demonstrating New Zealand is committed to the Pacific to help it be ... safer and more prosperous and enhancing New Zealand’s voice in a region,” Peters said.

The jobs would be advertised by the end of this year and the new posts expected to be filled by the middle of next year, Peters’ office said.

New Zealand is also sending four additional diplomats to Japan, the US, the EU and China to coordinate policy on the Pacific region, Peters said.

The US, Australia, France and Britain are opening new embassies, adding more staff and engaging with leaders of island nations more often in a bid to counter China’s rising influence.

Competition between the US and China over the Pacific was thrown into focus at the APEC summit, with the US and its Western allies launching a coordinated response to China’s Belt and Road program.

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