0427 GMT December 01, 2022
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta told the New Zealand China Council that the Five Eyes – the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand – should not stray from its scope of intelligence-sharing between member nations, AFP reported.
"We are uncomfortable with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes relationship," she said.
"We would much rather prefer to look for multilateral opportunities to express our interests on a number of issues."
New Zealand has previously been reluctant to sign joint statements from Five Eyes partners criticizing China, including on the issue of Hong Kong.
Officials in New Zealand have not previously addressed the issue but Mahuta said Wellington wanted to chart its own course in dealings with China.
"New Zealand has been very clear... not to invoke the Five Eyes as the first point of contact on messaging out on a range of issues," she said.
"So we've not favored that type of approach and have expressed that to Five Eyes partners."
The comments come just months after Trade Minister Damien O'Connor urged Australia to show more "respect" to Beijing.
New Zealand officials have also been careful not to directly criticize China's expanding influence in the Pacific, unlike their US and Australian counterparts.
Mahuta took over the foreign affairs portfolio after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's re-election last year.
Her remarks further expose the growing divide on Beijing between New Zealand and partners like Australia, and come just days ahead of a planned meeting with her Australian counterpart Marise Payne.
New Zealand recently sealed an upgraded free trade agreement with China.