Insiders said the Government would not be corralled into sabotaging its relationship with China, its main trading partner, and would not outsource its foreign policy as rhetoric over China became increasingly bellicose. New Zealand has been reluctant to sign joint statements from Five Eyes partners criticising China over its crackdown in Hong Kong and the arrests of activists there. But it played down suggestions the intelligence-sharing group had fundamental differences over China.
Phil Goff, New Zealand's former foreign affairs minister, said the Five Eyes group had survived serious disagreements before with no impact on the fundamental cohesion of the alliance. "No one can ever accuse New Zealand of not playing its part in the fight for international security, peace and freedom," Goff said. He said during his decades in politics, New Zealand had valued both the Five Eyes relationships and its independent foreign policy, believing the two could coexist.