Jacinda Ardern prepares for Europe trip, first stop is critical NATO summit

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is about to take off for Europe and her first stop is a critical NATO summit, which she will be the first New Zealander to attend.

The alliance is moving to shore up partnerships and make a point that the Ukraine conflict hasn't caused it to take its eye off China.

But Ardern is refusing to say whether New Zealand would defend Taiwan from an invasion.

The Prime Minister's Europe trip is shaping up to be a marathon of mega meetings.

"It's such a jammed programme. It's got a note 'pick up packed lunch in a box', 'pick up packed dinner in a box'," Ardern said.

Her first meeting is about as major as it gets - the NATO leaders' summit in Spain.

"A topic of agenda will be regional security issues more broadly and this is where we can lend our voice more broadly about what we see in Indo-Pacific," she said.

And by that the Prime Minister means China and its moves in the Pacific.

For the first time, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and South Korea have been invited to join the NATO leaders' meeting.

The northern hemisphere military alliance also sees China as a priority.

"So what we say at NATO is no different to what we’ve been consistently saying. It will be of no surprise to anyone," Ardern said.

But she is refusing to say whether New Zealand would help defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion like the United States is.

"This is not an area where we've got into hypotheticals or speculated in the region in that regard," Ardern said.

Others have. British foreign secretary Liz Truss is urging NATO to take a global outlook and protect Taiwan.

"It must be on the agenda," Ardern said. "New Zealand has an independent foreign policy. We make our own decisions on our own terms. As do others."

US President Joe Biden has decided to approve another more than NZ$710 million for weapons for Ukraine ahead of the summit.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the summit virtually.

Ardern said New Zealand's support stacks up.

"That's something that I've heard is an appreciation that New Zealand has played despite our distance, despite our size," Ardern said.

And there will be more to come

"We will continue to look at the role that we can play as, unfortunately, this conflict becomes quite protracted."

The Ukraine conflict has factored in the negotiations of a free trade deal with Europe. Amid fears of a food shortage, New Zealand's been promoting itself as a secure food source.

Ardern will also meet with EU leaders to help get the long-awaited deal over the line.

"For me it's all about providing the momentum we can and all the energy we can with those negotiations," she said.

All the energy, and behind the scenes is an air of confidence Ardern won't fly home empty-handed.