WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that Australia’s new nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in its territorial waters under a long standing nuclear free policy.
A new Indo-Pacific security partnership announced by U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will see the United States and Britain provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.
The Indo-Pacific deal is widely seen as a counter to China’s growing influence in the region.
“I discussed the arrangement with Prime Minister Morrison last night,” Ardern said at a news conference.
“I am pleased to see that the eye has been turned to our region from partners we work closely with. It’s a contested region and there is a role that others can play in taking an interest in our region. But the lens we will look at this from will include stability,” she said.
However, Ardern said the nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in New Zealand waters under a 1984 nuclear-free zone policy.
“Certainly they couldn’t come into our internal waters.
No vessels that are partially or fully powered by nuclear energy is able to enter our internal borders,” she said.
Ardern said the new Indo-Pacific grouping does not change the security and intelligence ties of New Zealand, which is a member of the Five Eyes, a post-war intelligence grouping that also includes the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada.
“This is not a treaty level arrangement. It does not change
our existing relationship including Five Eyes or our close partnership with Australia on defence matters,” she said.
Ardern, who is in her second term in office, has looked to focus on a more independent foreign policy that is not loyal to any major bloc.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has said she was uncomfortable with expanding the role of the Five Eyes, drawing criticism from Western allies who said New Zealand was reluctant to criticise China due to its trade ties.
China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Michael Perry)