A former National MP is offering Foreign Minister Winston Peters a chance to "put up or shut up" by supporting a Maori kapahaka group's visit to an arts festival in North Korea.

Businessman Ross Meurant, who has twice visited North Korea for commercial reasons and on vacation, has organised a group with the help of Tame Iti and Tuku Morgan to go to North Korea in April to perform at a festival.

He said it was an opportunity to build diplomatic bridges with North Korea, and challenged Peters to help fund the $35,000 airfares for the group - and even join the group if he wanted.

"When [Peters] first got his new job [as Foreign Minister], he said he was interested in opening a doorway to North Korea," Meurant said.


"He can put up or shut up ... put his money where his mouth is. He can secure us some arts grant for the Maori group to make the trip. That would then demonstrate that Winston was sincere and genuine in his intention when he said, 'it is my intention to be some sort of conduit to North Korea'.

"Maybe Winston would like the opportunity to be serious, and [show] it's not just loose talk."

When he was made Foreign Minister, Peters said he did not think North Korea was "an utterly hopeless case".

"We need to better understand that region and make our contribution. Albeit as a small country, but as an informed one."

During his last stint as Foreign Minister, Peters visited North Korea in 2007 as part of a group that tried to persuade the country to abandon its nuclear development programme in exchange for economic development aid.

"We didn't succeed, but it was worth trying. We did though funnily enough get some success and ensured that 97,000 birds that transit North Korea to New Zealand - to Miranda - continue to get safe harbour because of those efforts."

A spokesman for Peters said ​the minister was flying back from the East Asia Summit and could not be reached for comment.

Acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis said: "We love our culture to be all around the world, but I'm just not quite sure how appropriate it is in North Korea, given the situation over there."

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones, who was formerly an Ambassador for Pacific Economic Development, said it was up to Peters to decide - but Maori culture was a powerful diplomatic tool.

"When I was around the Pacific, I always found Maori culture was a great way of breaking down iciness."

National's foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee said if a kapahaka group could help bring North Korea to the diplomatic table, it should be explored.

"Last time [Peters] started a thing you might describe as ornithological diplomacy. If kapahaka diplomacy is of use, so be it.

"But in the end, you've got pretty aggressive foreign policy coming out of North Korea, some fairly strong comments coming out of the US, great worry in both Japan and South Korea. I doubt a kapahaka group is going to solve any of those problems.​"

While he was in Manila, Peters met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss a regional Asia-Pacific initiative, prompting speculation that it might have something to do with North Korea.

However, the Herald understands it does not relate to North Korea - though Peters may be seeking a trip there that is unrelated to the Asia-Pacific initiative.