China has expressed its displeasure to New Zealand over the Government's new Strategic Defence Policy Statement - in both Beijing and in Wellington.
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said at the post-Cabinet press conference yesterday that concerns had been registered with New Zealand ambassador Clare Fearnley in Beijing and by Madam Wu Xi in Wellington, but he downplayed the importance of it.
"The Chinese have made it clear to our ambassador in Beijing their concerns about that as their ambassador here has made her concerns known to Foreign Affairs," Peters said yesterday.
"That not unusual. We get all sorts of offshore interests expressing their views by their ambassador or high commissions in this country."
Defence Minister Ron Mark last Friday released the policy statement, which was unusually explicit – for New Zealand - in its criticism of China's military build-up in the South China Sea. It referred to China's activities in the Antarctic.
It also emphasised the need for New Zealand Defence to stand ready to help partners.
Peters in a major foreign policy speech the previous week, also talked about the militarisation of the South China Seas without mentioning China, which was in keeping with the last Government's practice.
But Peters said there was no difference: "I don't see any difference between what Ron Mark was saying and what I was saying and I've been saying it for a long time.
"I've talked about New Zealand's concern over the militarisation of the South China Sea. There's only one party responsible for that. I'm sure you can join the dots," Peters said.
"You are all hung up because the obvious was not spelt out to you like in a picture card," he told reporters.
New Zealand was straight up and upfront with countries whether it was China, Australia over its failure to abide by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or the United States over its trade policy.
"That has been our independent foreign policy but with a new hue at the moment in the sense of being far more candid and far more honest about it rather than pulling all our punches and doing nothing things that we don't agree with."
Peters suggested that the difference was not between Foreign Affairs and Defence but between the current Coalition Government and the former National-led Government.
"We are not here to 'make people happy.' We are here as a responsible international citizen doing our best to preserve the neighbourhood in which we live and to preserve our sovereignty and enhance the economic and social wealth of the people of this country, not to make all and sundry offshore happy and contented with what we say.
"It ends up being what we had in the last nine years – whole lot of nothing."