Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand ready to respond to any security challenges in Pacific as China seeks to expand presence in region

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand is willing to respond to any security challenges in the Pacific.

The comments come after documents seen by Reuters reveal China is seeking a region-wide deal with almost a dozen Pacific Island countries. 

The deal reportedly covers policing, security and data communication cooperation and will be discussed when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosts a meeting in Fiji next week.

Wang arrives in the Solomon Islands on Thursday, which recently signed a security pact with China despite objections from Australia, the United States, Japan and New Zealand. They fear it could upset regional security arrangements and give China a military foothold in the Pacific.

Ardern was asked about China looking to strike deals with Pacific nations and she said it's important nations discuss the issue. 

"You can see here this is a discussion that draws in or at least China is seeking to draw in a wide membership of the Pacific," she said. 

"From New Zealand's perspective, we see it as incredibly important that the response to it and those discussions actually come from within the Pacific as well.

"The Pacific Island Forum leaders' meeting will be incredibly important as an opportunity for the Pacific to canvass its view on that increasing presence and the actions of China to increase its role in the Pacific."

Ardern said the Pacific is ready to respond to any security challenges that could arise.

"New Zealand has its view and obviously on anything related to security arrangements, we are very strongly of the view that we have within the Pacific the means and ability to respond to any security challenges that exist and New Zealand is willing to do that".  

Ardern questioned why China is looking to expand its security presence into the Pacific when the region can already meet those challenges. 

"I see it as China is trying to increase their engagement with sovereign nations but expanding into a space where actually the need around security arrangements, we are able to meet within our region," she said. 

"It's not for us to speak on behalf of other Pacific nations but what I can say is, where that need exists, New Zealand stands ready to respond to it. 

"The Pacific is our home. We considered the Pacific our family and where those needs exist, we are ready and willing to respond to that call."