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New PM’s first foray on global stage a success

Opinion Piece

News that New Zealand has been invited to join in a mysterious regional initiative at the request of the United States casts a fascinating closing note on a major overseas mission that has been successful for the new Government, led by a Prime Minister whose stature continues to grow.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has had two meetings with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson but told the media he could not confirm any details, yet.

Keeping the country waiting has become a party piece for Peters following the circus of his coalition announcement last month, and there are signs he is enjoying having a little more mystery in his pocket.

There was a suggestion the initiative involved North Korea, which Peters visited in 2007 as part of a bid to persuade the country to abandon its nuclear development programme in exchange for economic development aid.

The APEC and ASEAN summits generally saw Peters in a very subsidiary role, only rarely popping up in news reels standing beside Jacinda Ardern.

For a beginner in international politics, Ardern handled herself faultlessly at the two conferences.

Her approach to the issues was balanced, with a typical example her statement that New Zealand supported sanctions against North Korea but not military action, while she favoured the use of international law to deal with the dispute surrounding China’s actions on disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Even so early in her tenure, Ardern is drawing comparisons with her redoubtable fellow Labour PM Helen Clark. That is far too soon, however she is faced with a world political scene that is much more clouded and uncertain than during Clark’s premiership, and has proved a safe pair of hands so far.

All of which tends to leave Peters in her shadow, but be in no doubt that the wiliest fox in Parliament will not stay there long. There are domestic issues coming up in which both he and his party will ensure they have a big part to play.