US says ‘door is open’ for New Zealand to ‘engage’ in AUKUS security pact

A “door is open” for New Zealand to “engage” in the AUKUS alliance, a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and US, said the US secretary of state on Thursday.

Antony Blinken, who arrived in Wellington after a stopover in Tonga where he opened a new US embassy, met with New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

"As we further develop AUKUS, the door is open to engagement," ABC News quoted Blinken as saying.

"As we continue to work on the second pillar, the door is very much open for NZ and other partners to engage as they see appropriate going forward,” he added.

On Sept. 15, 2021, the nations announced the formation of AUKUS, a trilateral security treaty for the Indo-Pacific region. It is primarily intended for China, which is becoming more assertive in the region.

His trip coincided with the visit of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to Wellington.

According to the official media of New Zealand, a closed-door meeting is also on the agenda between Hipkins, Albanese, Blinken and Mahuta ahead of the US secretary of state’s departure for Australia.

According to a statement issued by the New Zealand government, during her meeting with Blinken, Mahuta reaffirmed the "close partnership" with the US.

“We’re continuing to cooperate and support the Pacific in addressing the regional challenges they’ve identified - with many regional leaders being clear the damaging effects of climate change are the most pressing issue they face,” the statement said.

"Ongoing support for Ukraine as it continues to fight against Russia’s illegal invasion was also discussed," she said.

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