Regional | China

Defence Minister satisfied he has looked after Pacific nations

Photo / File

Peeni Henare is happy with how he has looked after the Pacific in the two years he has been NZ's Defence Minister, despite the Solomon Islands' recent surprise defence pact with China.

"Most definitely," Henare told Newshub Nation earlier today, after his return from last week's Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Asia's top defence meeting.

"I've already used the Tonga example. I've already been in touch with my counterparts regularly over the past two years despite Covid.

"I can appreciate some of the tensions, but I will give the example of when I walked into the meeting with the Solomon Islands, he called me minister. And at the end of it, he called me brother and gave me a hug."

"Like the Prime Minister said, we don't have bilateral relationships with the Pacific. We have family relationships," said Henare.

"Number one priority has always been the Pacific. When I announced our priorities, I said it was the Pacific and I'm not shy to say at the time everyone said I got it wrong and it should be South China sea.

"But obviously it's proven that the Pacific needs to be of interest to all of us. And we've made that clear and I made that clear to the colleagues I met when I was in Singapore."