Category: Politics

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Antony Blinken’s endgame for New Zealand

Antony Blinken is heading down under. The US Secretary of State’s visit to New Zealand and Australia this week comes as the two countries jointly host the FIFA Women’s World Cup. New Zealand foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta has highlighted the potential for ‘good old-fashioned sports diplomacy’ – and the Secretary is scheduled to attend the United States vs. Netherlands match in Wellington on Thursday afternoon. But the travel is more than just a chance to take in a game. Antony Blinken’s visit just happens to coincide with a trip to Wellington by Anthony Albanese. The Australian Prime Minister is coming...

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New Zealand gets ready to embrace NATO

Is New Zealand about to join ‘NATO+’? That seems to be the effective endgame, if reports ahead of New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ attendance at the NATO summit in Lithuania are anything to go by. Formally, the expansion by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into the Indo-Pacific is unlikely to use such snappy shorthand. Instead of NATO+, the more arcane ‘IP4’ nomenclature looks set to be used by the summit’s joint statement issued in Vilnius, a reference to the four NATO-friendly countries in the Indo-Pacific (or ‘IP’): Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. For a second year...

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Chris Hipkins’ successful meeting with Xi Jinping

Warm and constructive. That’s how Chris Hipkins wanted his meeting with Xi Jinping on Tuesday to be remembered. The New Zealand Prime Minister deployed the ‘warm and constructive’ phrase at least eight times in a subsequent press conference with New Zealand media. Hipkins was also keen to note that ‘the meeting was at no point adversarial’. This served to reinforce the impression of warmth. It also matched with opening public comments by Xi, who said Hipkins’ visit was of ‘great significance’. Xi pointed to the ‘tangible benefits to the two peoples’ that had emerged since China entered into a Comprehensive...

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Geoffrey Miller: What to expect from Chris Hipkins’ trip to China

Timing is everything. After months of mixed signals, Chris Hipkins will head to China at the end of June. The New Zealand Prime Minister’s long-awaited visit to Beijing will come shortly before he attends July’s NATO summit in Vilnius. The careful timing of the PM’s China trip – billed as a trade mission – offers advantages to both the Chinese and New Zealand sides. For Beijing, the tour will provide a valuable opportunity to influence the leader of a ‘Five Eyes’ country, just before Hipkins takes his seat at the NATO table in Lithuania. NATO last year launched a new...

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How fake AI images could stoke tensions in the Indo-Pacific

Seeing is no longer believing. Surprisingly realistic – yet fake – images created by Artificial Intelligence (AI) are here. To date, most have seemed more like curiosities than genuine deception attempts. Last month, it was revealed that New Zealand’s National Party had used the AI image generation app Midjourney to produce promotional images. The results included imaginary healthcare workers and fearful-looking citizens worried about crime. In this case, the use of AI was relatively benign – the AI creations effectively replaced the stock photos that would have been used in the past. Until a media outlet raised suspicions, few people...

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How successful was Chris Hipkins’ trip to Papua New Guinea?

Chris Hipkins is blazing his way through New Zealand’s foreign policy. The New Zealand Prime Minister’s fast-but-furious visit to Papua New Guinea this week – which saw Hipkins spend just 23 hours in Port Moresby, the PNG capital – was the PM’s fourth such rapid international trip since he took office. But after two quick visits to Australia and one to the United Kingdom, this was Hipkins’ first foray into the Pacific. Moreover, Monday’s trip to PNG put the Prime Minister at the heart of the new ‘Great Game’ for control of the Pacific. And in the geopolitical battle between...

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Why Chris Hipkins is heading to Brisbane – not Beijing

This weekend’s visit to Australia by New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks volumes about major changes underway in New Zealand foreign policy. Hipkins is flying to Brisbane – Australia’s third-biggest city and home to around 100,000 New Zealand citizens – to meet with his counterpart, Anthony Albanese. The trip’s significance comes in part from its timing. Hipkins is visiting just before Anzac Day on 25 April. On this day each year, Australia and New Zealand both remember the role played and losses suffered by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (or Anzac for short) in World War I,...

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Why New Zealand is getting closer to NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has New Zealand firmly in its sights. Last week, New Zealand’s foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta attended the annual NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels – alongside her counterparts from Australia, Japan and South Korea. Mahuta’s participation came after New Zealand’s then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined last June’s NATO leaders’ summit in Madrid. Mahuta was also a guest at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in April 2022, albeit only in virtual form. At a more granular level, a NATO military delegation visited New Zealand last month for meetings with officials in Wellington. The head...

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New Zealand’s Middle East strategy, 20 years after the Iraq War

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the Iraq War. While it strongly opposed the US-led invasion, New Zealand’s then Labour-led government led by Prime Minister Helen Clark did deploy military engineers to try to help rebuild Iraq in mid-2003. With violence soaring, their 12-month deployment ended without being renewed further, in 2004. However, New Zealand re-entered Iraq in 2015 as part of the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group. The emergence and growth of ISIS was one of many unintended consequences of the Iraq War’s disastrous and bloody aftermath. The Government announced...

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New Zealand’s foreign policy hardens under new leadership

Times are changing in New Zealand foreign policy. That seems to be the message from New Zealand’s new triumvirate of ministers with responsibility for foreign affairs and defence – Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta and defence minister Andrew Little. Jacinda Ardern’s departure as Prime Minister was always going to provide an opportunity to adjust New Zealand’s positioning. In particular, Hipkins’ decision to appoint Andrew Little as defence minister – replacing Peeni Henare – seems to have been a strategic move. From the top, Hipkins has struck a more ideological tone in his most substantive comments on foreign...

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