Foreign Minister Winston Peters says there’s no risk to the country’s diplomatic ties with China after his comments last week that Taiwan should re-join the World Health Organisation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Peters said last week he supported the position because of what the international community could learn from Taiwan’s successful Covid-19 response. However, neither China nor New Zealand formally recognised Taiwan as an independent country under the one-China policy.
He labelled the comments as his “personal” position and stood by it today.
“True friendship is based on equality,” Mr Peters said today of New Zealand’s relationship with China.
“It’s based on the ability to, in this friendship, nevertheless disagree.”
Mr Peters pointed to the example of Norman Kirk’s Government, who protested French nuclear tests in the Pacific.
“We didn’t back off our responsibility to our neighbourhood and, dare I say, to humanity,” he said.
“We have got to stand up for ourselves.”
He said all New Zealand was saying was that Taiwan had been a “stand-out” in battling Covid-19 and that it could help other places in their responses too.
“It’s really impossible to understand why, in the interest of helping the international community… that we wouldn’t try to find out why it happened, how it happened, so we can do all we can internationally to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
He also said he didn’t regret telling Chinese Ambassador Wu Xi last week she should "listen to [her] master".
“Every Ambassador should listen to their master.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today New Zealand maintained its recognition of the one-China policy, and that the call for Taiwan to re-join the WHO was to learn from their pandemic response.
"We've always taken a one-China policy," she said.
"It's about being able to gather that knowledge but it fundamentally does not change our policy with regards to one-China."
The Chinese Embassy released a statement last week highly critical of Mr Peters’ comments.
“The one-China principle is the political foundation of [the] China-New Zealand relationship,” the Embassy said.
“The Chinese Central Government attaches great importance to the health and welfare of people in Taiwan and has made reasonable and appropriate arrangements regarding the region's participation in international health affairs based on the one-China principle.”