WELLINGTON - New Zealand will continue to develop security relationship with China, which has seen the two militaries increase cooperation in recent years, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said Thursday.
China was pivotal to security in the Asia-Pacific region, which stood to benefit from a prosperous and peaceful China as an active and positive participant in international systems, Brownlee said in a published speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in Wellington.
People's Liberation Army engineers had participated alongside New Zealand and the United States in the New Zealand-led humanitarian and disaster relief exercise, Tropic Twilight in Tonga last month.
Chinese officers also participated alongside representatives from the New Zealand Defence Force, the Australian Defence Force and the United States military in the humanitarian and disaster relief exercise Cooperation Spirit held in Wellington earlier this month.
"Further afield, we welcome China's extensive peacekeeping contributions, and in particular the force protection it has provided to New Zealand troops as part of the United Nations peacekeeping efforts in South Sudan," said Brownlee.
"Despite relative differences in our strategic outlook and in the sizes of our two defense forces, New Zealand and China are developing a constructive and resilient relationship," he said.
"Our interactions with the People's Liberation Army allow for real issues to be discussed openly."
There were challenging issues to navigate, Brownlee said, citing the South China Sea issues.
"Continued China-United States engagement and cooperation is indispensable to security and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond," he said.
New Zealand was optimistic about the continuing military engagement by both countries, he said, referring to high-level exchanges last year and this year.
"New Zealand is acutely aware of the dynamic between China and the United States, but we do not see our defense relationships as mutually exclusive," said Brownlee.