China has condemned New Zealand for violating the "one China" policy after Foreign Minister Winston Peters made "wrong statements" regarding Taiwan's exclusion from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, is considered by China as an extension of its territory. As well as being excluded from the WHO, Taiwan is also not a member of the United Nations (UN).
Last week, Peters expressed his "personal" support for the state, telling reporters: "In the interests [of] international health, you want every country in an international organisation designed to improve the world's health. It's just logic.
"Personally, you've got to have every population in the world in the WHO if it's to have any meaning."
During a news conference in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Peters' comments violated its "one China" policy, which he defined as the political foundation of New Zealand and China's "bilateral relationship".
"We express our strong dissatisfaction with the statements and resolutely oppose it, and we have already made stern representations with New Zealand," Zhao said.
"China urges New Zealand to strictly abide by the 'one China' principle and immediately stop making wrong statements on Taiwan, to avoid damaging our bilateral relationship."
The Chinese Embassy also issued a stern statement in response to Peters' comments, reiterating: "There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is part of China".
"We hope New Zealand will continue to abide by this principle, properly handle issues related to Taiwan and uphold the sound development of China-NZ relations with concrete actions."
When questioned about the embassy's response, Peters claimed that was not the message China's Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, had conveyed, telling the Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand, Wu Xi, to "listen to her master back in Beijing". Peters said Wang had reassured him that "China does not behave that way".
"In any way that she might be suggesting and I trust him and I trust the administration to keep their word."
Peters later confirmed it was the Government's position to allow Taiwan a seat at the table, NZME reports, referring to the state's successful fight against COVID-19.
"They have got something to teach the rest of the world - every country, including China, must surely want to know the secret of their success," he said.
"They are a... world success story on COVID-19. They have less than 450 cases and have had four deaths and the population around the same size as Australia."
According to Johns Hopkins University's live COVID-19 tracker, Taiwan has had only 440 confirmed cases and seven virus-related deaths.