New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday urged China to oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and “use its access and influence to help bring an end to the conflict.”
Ardern, speaking at the China Business Summit in Auckland, said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression posed a threat to her small nation, a major trading partner of China.
“As history shows us repeatedly, when large countries disregard sovereignty and territorial integrity with a sense of impunity, it does not bode well particularly for small countries like New Zealand,” Ardern said.
She warned that the war in Ukraine may have effects that ripple across the globe.
“The implications of the war are global, and are felt far from Europe, including here in the Indo-Pacific,” Ardern said on Monday. “And as a nation of the region, we have a fundamental interest in its peace and stability.
“We continue to urge China to be clear that it does not support the Russian invasion, and have called on China to use its access and influence to help bring an end to the conflict,” the prime minister added.
Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in late February, with Russia’s military in recent months focusing its attacks on the country’s east. Thousands of civilians have been killed, millions have been forced to flee their homes, and dozens of soldiers are being killed on both sides every day.
China is one of the few major countries that has not condemned the war. In April, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng announced they were instead strengthening ties with Russia.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin have met in early February, before the war began, expressing their shared desire to halt the expansion of the NATO security alliance.
Ardern, whose nation just celebrated fully re-opening its borders after the pandemic shut down much of the country, said trade between China and New Zealand goes back 50 years, having blossomed from $38 million annually to $38 billion today.
“China and New Zealand have both been major beneficiaries of relative peace,” she said, adding it was incumbent upon nations to maintain that.
“By facilitating global cooperation on issues that can only be solved collectively, international rules, norms and institutions are more important than ever,” she added. “Wherever they may fail, our first port of call must always be to find ways to make them stronger. Because we, both New Zealand and China, have benefited from them.”
Ardern also noted that New Zealand had concerns about potential human rights violations in China, including in the region of Xinjiang, where ethnic Muslims are being persecuted and imprisoned, as well as the autonomy of Hong Kong as China’s central government asserts increasing control.