Nanaia Mahuta won't say if China Foreign Minister Qin Gang asked her about New Zealand potentially joining AUKUS

The Government has signalled the possibility of being invited to the non-nuclear arm of a US-led defence alliance, but Nanaia Mahuta is refusing to say whether China has asked her whether New Zealand will join. 

Mahuta, the Foreign Affairs Minister, appeared on Newshub Nation on Saturday - having been almost constantly travelling abroad this year including to China last month.

"Our relationship with China extends beyond trade and economics to people-to-people relationships and, also, our cultural connections," she told host Simon Shepherd.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni was also grilled on China and its impact in the Pacific last week. However, she downplayed the matter of China-West tensions over Beijing's growing influence in the region. 

Mahuta noted China had been in the Pacific for a long time.

"What we want to ensure is that China has high regard for the international rule of law and Pacific norms, which will not see the further militarisation of our region," she told Newshub Nation.

Mahuta would not say if China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang, during her visit last month, asked her whether New Zealand was going to join a defence alliance between Australia, the UK and the US - known as AUKUS. 

It comes after Defence Minister Andrew Little last month confirmed Washington had raised the possibility of New Zealand becoming a non-nuclear partner of the alliance. 

"I'm not going to disclose all the details of any bilateral conversation but what I can say is that we did register the issue that we are most concerned about with China; beyond trade and the economy and the human rights space but, also, we drew the conversation towards the Pacific and why climate change is such an important issue that should be addressed," Mahuta said.

As for New Zealand joining AUKUS, Mahuta reiterated there were no plans for such an agreement at this point.

Shepherd also asked Mahuta about China's security cooperation agreement with the Solomon Islands - a pact opposed by New Zealand and other Western nations. 

The Foreign Affairs Minister said China and the Solomons had been pushed by New Zealand "to the extent that we don't think… it was necessary".

Mahuta also acknowledged the Ukraine invasion, saying New Zealand was clear with China it could use its relationship with Russia "to see the cessation of war".

"Any outcome would require the Ukraine to agree to so we've continued to urge China to use its influence with Russia.

"I understand that [China] President Xi and [Ukraine] President Zelenskiy have had a conversation so that's another positive move towards trying to figure out, 'Is there an end-point to the war in Ukraine?'"

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on Three & Three Now, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.