China says New Zealand PM’s comments about assertiveness are ‘wrong’

WELLINGTON: The Chinese embassy in New Zealand reprimanded New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for comments she made at the NATO summit about China’s assertiveness, calling them “misguided” and “wrong”.

Ardern said in Madrid on Wednesday that China has also recently become more assertive and more willing to challenge international rules and standards.

“We have taken note of New Zealand’s pertinent comment during the NATO session, which contains some misguided allegations against China,” an embassy spokesman said in a statement on its website on Thursday. “That claim is false and therefore regrettable.”

“Clearly, such a comment does not help to strengthen mutual trust between the two countries,” the statement said.

New Zealand, which is heavily dependent on China for trade, often shrinks from direct criticism of Beijing.

However, it has recently tightened its tone on both security and Beijing’s growing presence in the South Pacific following the recent signing of a security pact between China and the nearby Solomon Islands.

The embassy statement also referred to comments by Ardern about efforts to disrupt and destabilize the Pacific, saying any escalation of tension in the Pacific “could not have been caused by China’s cooperation with its island partners to promote sustainable development” .

Such cooperation had nothing to do with militarization of the region, the statement added. “If there is militarization in the South Pacific, it is clear to everyone who and what is fueling such tensions.”