China’s increasing willingness to challenge international norms must be resisted, says Jacinda Ardern

‘We must stand firm on the rules-based order, call for diplomatic engagement and speak out against human rights abuses at all times’

Related: Liz Truss warns China that any attempt to invade Taiwan would be a ‘strategic miscalculation’

China has become “more assertive and more willing to challenge international rules and norms”, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has said, adding that this must be resisted.

Ms Ardern singled out China while speaking at the Nato summit in Madrid on Wednesday. “We must stand firm on the rules-based order, call for diplomatic engagement and speak out against human rights abuses at all times when and where we see them,” she said.

The New Zealand leader also urged other nations to use diplomacy and economic links, instead of militarisation, to strengthen ties in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We must use diplomacy at every opportunity, until it has proven to fail. We must strengthen the resilience of the Indo-Pacific region through relationships and economic architecture rather than militarisation,” she said.

Ms Ardern also slammed the Russian invasion of Ukraine and underscored the significance of international rules as she cautioned against a new arms race between nations.

Rising tensions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were not limited to Europe as the Pacific region was also experiencing “mounting pressure on the international rules-based order”, Ms Ardern said.

Calling out Vladimir Putin’s actions as “an affront to all of us”, Mr Ardern told the alliance not to allow the legacy of the war in Ukraine to become an arms race, “or an even more polarised and dangerous world”.

“This crossroads that the world finds itself at should be the basis for us to put a halt in the production of weapons that create our mutually assured destruction, because the alternative is unfathomable,” she added.

New Zealand has backed Ukraine in the ongoing war and slapped sanctions on Russia as punitive measures. It has also sent defence support to Europe to aid Ukraine in the war. New Zealand has also poured aid for Ukraine through Nato Trust Fund operations.

However, the pacific island nation is not a member of Nato. It participates in the summit as a partner of the western defence alliance and its fighters have also supported operations led by the Nato alliance.

The leader added that New Zealand was not participating in the Nato meet to “expand our military alliances”.

Rather, Ms Ardern said, New Zealand is “here to contribute to a world that lessens the need for anyone to call on them”.

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