Doors open for New Zealand to join AUKUS: Blinken

Sydney, Jul 27 (EFE).- United States State Secretary Antony Blinken said Thursday that “the door is open” for New Zealand to join the AUKUS security pact, while Wellington maintains its red line against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

AUKUS, formed in 2021 by Australia, the United Kingdom and the US, aims to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific and assist the country in acquiring and developing nuclear-powered submarines.

“The door’s very much open for New Zealand” as the country sees “appropriate” to join AUKUS in the future, Blinken remarked in Wellington during a joint press conference with New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

An offer New Zealand has been considering since March to only partially accede to non-nuclear issues.

“New Zealand is not prepared to compromise or change our nuclear-free position,” Mahuta said Thursday.

Blinken, who also met Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, said New Zealand “is a deeply trusted partner” with which he works on security issues, referring to the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance, which comprises the two countries along with Australia, Canada and the UK.

Blinken’s statement, as part of the Oceania tour during which took him Wednesday to Tonga before a scheduled Friday trip to Australia, comes in the context of intense competition between Washington and Beijing in the region.

Despite the US intention of adding the nation to the security pact, Wellington would only be willing to join the part on exchanging information and technology, New Zealand’s Defense Minister Andrew Little said in March.

Membership of the AUKUS pact is a thorny issue for New Zealand, which has maintained a strict anti-nuclear policy since 1987. It came two years after a ship belonging to environmental organization Greenpeace sank in the port of Auckland to protest against France’s nuclear tests in the Pacific. EFE


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