Defence Minister Peeni Henare makes it clear Pacific is number one priority for security

New Zealand's Defence Minister Peeni Henare says the number one priority for security is the Pacific.

The Defence Minister spoke with Newshub Nation on Saturday and made it clear the Pacific is his number one priority when it comes to security concerns worldwide.

"It's proven that the Pacific needs to be of interest to all of us and we've made that clear, I made that clear to my colleagues whilst I was in Singapore."

Henare spoke with China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe at a security summit in Singapore last week and told them New Zealand will continue to work with the Pacific to ensure it stays independent.

"We value its security and its future prosperity and want to make sure that we support the Pacific as an independent state and to allow them to make decisions for themselves."

He told Newshub Nation that New Zealand will continue to work with people in the Pacific who share the same values and want what is best for them.

This comes after China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands in April which shocked the US, Australia and New Zealand, who fear it will bring a heavy military presence from Beijing.

Reuters reported Beijing said it was not establishing a military base in the Solomon Islands and the security deal was to strengthen security relationships with Pacific island nations.

Henare told Reuters the Pacific has the freedom to make its own decisions about its relationship with China and New Zealand's job is to support them.
"Our job is to support them, to make sure they make strong decisions for themselves, Henare told Reuters on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's top defence meeting.

When asked whether New Zealand's recent negotiations of maritime security with the island nation were in response to China's pact, Henare said no.

"We've got a strong policy team. We should be reaching out to help and that's exactly what we are going to do."