Foreign Minister Winston Peters hosting new US Defence Secretary Mark Esper at dinner in Auckland tonight where Iran and China are likely to be top of the agenda.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had a telephone conversation with Esper from Wellington earlier tonight.

She was unable to join them because she has a meeting tomorrow morning with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Esper has held the post for only two weeks and is on his way back from the annual Ausmin talks in Australia between two sets of defence ministers and foreign ministers.


Esper and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have requested that Australia join the United States in the Strait of Hormuz as part of a security force after Iran seized several civilian oil tankers.

Australian ministers have not given any indication of when a decision would be made or the extent of any contribution.

Ardern said at her post-Cabinet press conference that New Zealand had had what she would call "general approaches" from the United States regarding the Strait of Hormuz.

"Nothing specific. So it would be premature to classify it as a specific request [for] New Zealand at this point of time. But they have been generally seeking support from partners.

"I don't want to get into hypotheticals. We take requests like that as they come."

She expected to be discussing the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan with Stoltenberg in which New Zealand contributes 13 Defence Force personnel, mainly trainers in the Afghanistan National Army Officer Academy.

New US Defence Secretary Mark Esper in Sydney after the Ausmin talks at the weekend. Photo / AP
New US Defence Secretary Mark Esper in Sydney after the Ausmin talks at the weekend. Photo / AP

By March next year, personnel will drop to 11, with six at the academy, two at mission HQ and up to three focusing on women's involvement in peace and security.

The United States are at present conducting talks with the Taliban in Doha in a bid to end the 18-year conflict.


Peters met Pompeo in Washington last month and again in Bangkok last week at the Asean Regional Forum. Peters has repeatedly courted a greater involvement from the United States in the region.

Pompeo and Esper were vocal about the role of China in the region when speaking in Australia.

"We ... stand firmly against a disturbing pattern of aggressive behaviour, destabilising behaviour from China," Esper said at the concluding press conference in Sydney.

"The US will not stand by idly while any one nation attempts to reshape the region to its favour at the expense of others."

New Zealand's Defence Minister Ron Mark held talks with Esper earlier today.