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Winston Peters not concerned about blowback from China after supporting Taiwan

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters is not concerned about diplomatic blowback over New Zealand's support for Taiwan joining a World Health Organisation meeting as an observer, he says.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian speaks at the daily media briefing in Beijing on April 8, 2020. Photo: Greg Baker / AFP

China has berated New Zealand, saying the country should "stop making wrong statements" on the issue to avoid damaging bilateral ties.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said New Zealand's comments were a severe violation of the "one China" principle, which stated that Taiwan was part of China.

"We express our strong dissatisfaction with the statements and resolutely oppose it, and we have already made stern representations with New Zealand.

"China urges New Zealand to strictly abide by the 'one China principle' and immediately stop making wrong statements on Taiwan, to avoid damaging our bilateral relationship," Zhao said.

Peters said he had personal assurances from his Chinese counterpart that there would be no retaliation over an issue like this, because China did not "behave that way".

"When I get assurances from the highest level in China, I believe them," Peters said.

"True friendship is based on equality. It's based on the ability to, in this friendship, nevertheless disagree."

Peters said New Zealand supported Taiwan taking part in the World Health Assembly meeting next week as an observer is because of its "tremendous success against Covid-19".

"Taiwan has been a standout society - 435 cases and only four deaths - and they're not going into relapse like China and South Korea are.

"It's really impossible to understand why in the interests of helping the international community that's already lost a quarter of a million people and will lose millions, and the greatest crisis to any economy in 100 years... I find it very difficult to believe anyone would think that we wouldn't do our duty by all those people who have sacrificed so much", he said.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

Last week, Peters said China's Ambassador to New Zealand should heed her "master back in Beijing", after a statement about New Zealand's position on Taiwan and the World Health Organisation.

Today he said he did not regret the comment, despite the new comments from the Chinese foreign ministry.

"I don't regret that at all because every ambassador should listen to their master. They should listen to who is giving the directions. The directions come from the minister himself and the government.

"In over 22 years of long engagement with China and of late with my counterpart Wang Yi, I've always had the same assurance", Peters said.

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