NZ warned in advance of Syria strikes

Prime Minister Bill English has confirmed US officials contacted the New Zealand Government to confirm it was considering air strikes against Syria two hours before they occurred.

Mr English told Radiolive's Alison Mau that the US did not confirm "where or when" those air strikes might occur.

"We can understand why it's come to this because we've seen the atrocities of chemical weapons which have been widely condemned.

"The UN Security Council seem unable to deal with it  so we can understand why the US has ended up here," Mr English said.

He went on to say he supported the US actions  to a point.

"We support proportionate action that will prevent further atrocities.

"I'm quite concerned about the on-going problem in Syria. We've seen these atrocities which build on the record of chemical weapons which is absolutely beyond the pale, and this does seem to escalate tensions."

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says he stands by the actions taken by US President Donald Trump in Syria.

More than 50 tomahawk missiles were fired from two US naval ships at 1pm (NZ time) targeting runways, aircraft and fuel depots.

"In the absence of an adequate response from the United Nations Security Council, we can understand why the United States has taken targeted unilateral action to try and prevent further such attacks by the Syrian regime," Mr McCully says.

"It is becoming clear that Syrian government forces were responsible for the outrageous attacks where chemical weapons were used."

"These events are horrific. It is critical that the international community emphatically demand an end to this violence, and that the Syrian government be held to account."