China's told Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee to back off, saying New Zealand needs to stay out of the disputes over the South China Sea.
It's one of the world's busiest shipping routes with $7 trillion of goods passing through each year - and it's rich in fishing resources and potential oil and gas reserves.
But there's a fight over who controls this massive region, even after The Hauge rejected China's claims it's the rightful owner.
That's pitted Beijing against its smaller neighbours like Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei.
China has angered those countries, ramping up its military presence while building up artificial islands in the disputed region.
But there are other players:
Battlelines are being drawn, but New Zealand hasn't really taken a side - we see it as international water.
However, if the disputes aren't settled soon, there are fears those disputes could escalate into a war.