Amidst the furore over the Huawei 5G decision and New Zealand’s increasingly turbulent relations with China, it would be easy to overlook the news that the leader of another important Northeast Asian partner is visiting this week. South Korean president Moon Jae-in has touched down in Auckland for a two-day state visit on the way home from the G20 meetings in Argentina. It marks the first visit by a Korean president in nine years.
The visit promises some respite for the Ardern government after a bumpy few weeks in its Asian diplomacy. One important focus of talks will of course be the situation on the Korean peninsula, which has seen a roller coaster 12 months of nuclear crisis and unconventional diplomacy. President Moon will be keen to enlist New Zealand’s support for his efforts to engage North Korea, including plans for a summit with Kim Jong-un in Seoul, possibly as soon as the middle of this month. His government is working to re-establish links between north and south and looking for ways to offer North Korea economic incentives without violating UN sanctions. He is likely to get a sympathetic hearing. Foreign Minister Winston Peters’ interest in North Korean issues is well known and Prime Minister Ardern will welcome the chance to play up her government’s disarmament and anti-nuclear credentials.