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China raises concern about NZ defence plan

A New Zealand defence report pointing the finger at China for the first time has ruffled feathers in Beijing, according to New Zealand’s acting prime minister.

His government last week unveiled a new long-term plan for defence which, among a plethora of other issues, flagged China’s economic influence on Pacific nations and the militarisation of the South China Sea as concerns.

“The Chinese have made clear to our ambassador in Beijing their concerns about that, as their ambassador here has made her concerns known to Foreign Affairs,” acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters told reporters in Wellington Monday.

“That’s not unusual. We get all sorts of offshore interests expressing their views.”

While New Zealand has this year massively boosted its foreign aid funding to Pacific nations, its top politicians have doggedly declined to specifically name China and have appeared to take a softer than their American and Australian counterparts.

The new policy plan was candid by comparison.

Mr Peters on Monday denied there had been a change of tune.

“We’re not here, as I see it, to make people [overseas] happy,” he said.

“We’re here to be responsible for the national citizen, doing our best to preserve the way in which we live and preserve our sovereignty.”

Australia and New Zealand are set to in September sign a new security agreement with their Pacific island neighbours that some analysts say could limit the military presence of China and Russia in the region.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s military on Monday also announced it was buying four new Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft, in what’s being seen as a show of greater military cooperation with its traditional allies, Australia and the United States.

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