Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reaffirms commitment to Five Eyes after UK media claims it's 'become four'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says overseas noise about comments made by Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta is unnecessary after UK media claimed the Five Eyes had become a group of four.

Laying out New Zealand's perspective on its relationship with China, Mahuta said in a speech on Monday there were some matters in which the two countries "do not, cannot and will not agree", before pinpointing concerns with Beijing's interference in Hong Kong's democracy and the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. 

But UK media reacted to Mahuta's comments, with The Times and Telegraph newspapers claiming in headlines the Five Eyes - an intelligence-sharing alliance between the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - had become a group of four.

The Telegraph said Mahuta's call to not allow the intelligence alliance to dictate New Zealand's position on China put it "at odds with the other members of the Five Eyes alliance". The UK, US, and Canada have recently been outspoken against China, accusing it of committing genocide against Uighur Muslims.

Beijing has repeatedly denied the claims.

Ardern, who earlier defended Mahuta's comments, reaffirmed New Zealand's commitment to the Five Eyes on Tuesday. 

"What I'd say is there should be no need for that offshore. We are absolutely reaffirming our commitment to that Five Eyes partnership," she told reporters. "What we're simply articulating here is that, sometimes, statements we'll make collectively will be appropriately be made by Five Eyes together."

Ardern said other statements may be made by Five Eyes nations individually or in partnership with other countries.

"It may be that it's members of Five Eyes plus others, or just as we've done in the past - New Zealand and Australia. 

"The point we're making is Five Eyes is a security and intelligence platform - not every issue we speak on as New Zealand is a security and intelligence issue.

Jacinda Ardern and Nanaia Mahuta.
Jacinda Ardern and Nanaia Mahuta. Photo credit: Getty

"It's all about making sure we're partnering or speaking with the right cohort at the right time."

New Zealand has signed up to multiple international statements raising concern with China in several areas in recent months. Last month, Mahuta and Australia Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne twice called out Beijing in joint statements, while Ardern also said New Zealand would continue to raise concerns with China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims.