New Zealand can do more on nuclear issue - Jacinda Ardern

  • 17/11/2017
Ms Ardern believes New Zealand's deeply consistent position on the nuclear issue puts the country in a strong advocacy position.
Ms Ardern believes New Zealand's deeply consistent position on the nuclear issue puts the country in a strong advocacy position. Photo credit: Getty

Only a month into the job Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has instructed her team to see what more New Zealand can do on nuclear non-proliferation.

It's not just in relation to North Korea that Ms Ardern wants to play a bigger role, but on a global level as well.

"Obviously [North Korea's] where it's really been brought to a head in recent times but I think it's a reminder of the work that needs to be done with some of the international treaties we have and to be advocates for countries moving away from proliferation," she told NZ Newswire.

"I think there's more we can do."

In September New Zealand became one of the first signatories to the new global Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the country has long been a supporter of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that came into effect in 1970.

Ms Ardern believes New Zealand's deeply consistent position on the nuclear issue puts the country in a strong advocacy position.

The biggest nuclear threat of our time does now come from North Korea and Ms Ardern said New Zealand's role for the most part relates to promoting and enforcing sanctions adopted by the international community, but also extends to dialogue.

It's questionable whether talk and sanctions can help to overcome a regime that has held the same strong, pro-nuclear beliefs for generations, but Ms Ardern said the world had to try,

"It has been an ongoing issue but we have seen escalation ... I do think we're in a bit of a new era at the moment. I've heard a lot of people comment that they haven't seen such heightened tension in the region for many, many years," she said having just attended APEC and the East Asia Summit where the Korean peninsula was high on the agenda.

"When you add to that some other issues like South China Sea you see a real need for kinds of forums where we have collective dialogue and we have different perspectives all around the table trying to reach consensus."

There has been some speculation that Foreign Minister Winston Peters will travel to North Korea to speak with officials, potentially including leader Kim Jong-un.

It wouldn't be the first time. He tried in 2007 but while he has admitted that wasn't successful he's suggested in recent weeks that "maybe we could shoot higher this time".

"We do not think North Korea is an utterly hopeless case," he said.

Asked if she'd support Mr Peters travelling to the rogue nation to advocate against nuclear weapons Ms Ardern said she supported New Zealand playing "whatever role is required'.

Ms Ardern hasn't spoken directly with her coalition partner about a trip to Pyongyang but when asked about it she praised his international experience, relationships and reputation among world leaders as "hugely beneficial" for New Zealand.

"I support New Zealand playing whatever role is required."

NZN