New Zealand's response to the airstrikes on Syria should have been stronger, National leader Simon Bridges says.

But he didn't know whether, if he was in the position Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in now, he would offer troops or other military support to the United States.

"The honest answer is I don't know. We've got to be very careful about those sorts of things. In this instance, in terms of [New Zealand's] diplomatic response, it's fine, but it could have been a bit stronger," Bridges told Newshub's AM show.

New Zealand should have followed Australia and Canada in their support for the airstrikes, he said.


US President Donald Trump ordered a military attack against Syrian President Bashar Assad, joining allies Britain and France in launching missile strikes in retaliation for what Western nations said was the deliberate gassing of Syrian civilians.

Following the airstrikes, Ardern said New Zealand accepted why the US, United Kingdom and France launched the strikes.

The New Zealand Government favoured diplomatic efforts and a multilateral approach through the UN but Russia's veto had prevented that.

Speaking to reporters later, Ardern said now was the time "to return to the table, to the UN, to resolve these issues".

Bridges agreed today that the UN had been "useless" on the issue, and Russia's veto was a factor.

"You also feel the hand of Russia in all of this and we know that our Government's had a pretty weird response on that.

"In the aftermath of all of those of things, the weirdness on Russia, they should have taken a bit of a stronger position."

Bridges said he would have supported both the air strike and multilateral action at the UN.


"You could say going from accept to support doesn't matter much. I think in this game … those words do matter."

But he stopped short of saying that New Zealand should go where the US went.

"We do have to have an independent foreign policy but, come on, here we're talking about in Syria chemical attacks on their own people with Russia involved. It's a disgusting situation."

Speaking to RNZ later, Bridges questioned whether the Prime Minister was being pressured by Foreign Minister Winston Peters.

"Is Winston's Peters' hand on the Prime Minister in this issue. It certainly is another example where we're just a little bit out of step with where we should be in the international community."