Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand's relationship within the Five Eyes alliance has not changed.
It comes after New Zealand backed away from criticising China via the Five Eyes platform, saying, "New Zealand has been very clear... not to evoke the Five Eyes as the first point of contact on messaging out on a range of issues that really exist outside of the remit of the Five Eyes".
The fallout saw international news outlets covering the comments, with the UK Telegraph accusing New Zealand of pushing aside Five Eyes "to pursue closer ties with China".
Ardern said today that her view "on some of the reporting I've seen is that it's actually just inaccurate".
"Five Eyes remains our most important security and intelligence partnership and that has not changed. New Zealand also has an independent foreign policy."
During the same press conference where Mahuta spoke about Five Eyes, she also talked about looking to diversify New Zealand's trading relations in light of its reliance on China, saying dependence on "any one market puts us in a very difficult position".
According to Stats NZ, New Zealand's exports to China in the year to December 2020 was $18.6 billion (of the overall global exports of $78.2 billion).
During an interview yesterday with Australian news outlet ABC, Ardern was asked why countries should not be collectively voicing their concerns, in such ways as the Five Eyes have.
Ardern said countries "should be banding together where we see issues globally that don't align with the values that we share".
"Is that best done under the banner of a grouping of countries around a security intelligence platform, or is it best done under a banner of a group of countries with shared values?"
"Some of which may not belong to that Five Eyes partnership. We should be collectively raising issues, be it Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada, the US, or say, Germany and others," Ardern said at the time.
Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance, is made up of the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In November China issued a warning to "beware of their eyes being poked and blinded" after New Zealand along with its Five Eyes partners — Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States — issued a statement reiterating "serious concern regarding China’s imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong".