NZ PM Jacinda Ardern announces China visit

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is to make a fleeting visit to China.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is to make a fleeting visit to China.

New Zealand's prime minister will visit Beijing, it's been announced, after speculation her country's relations with the world's second-largest economy had cooled.

Jacinda Ardern on Monday confirmed she would be making her first visit to China's capital at the end of the week, meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and opening an embassy.

The invitation to Beijing comes as Ardern receives praise from around the world for her handling of the aftermath of a terror attack that killed 50 people at two Christchurch mosques.

"This meeting had been planned in the weeks prior to the Christchurch mosque attacks. In light of these events, I made the decision to scale back the meetings to just one day," Ardern said.

Asked whether she would be raising human rights concerns about the treatment of China's Muslim Uighur community, Ardern said she would answers questions about specific conversations following bilateral talks.

"It's fair to say I have raised the issue before and I have raised human rights issues before," she said.

Her trip follows speculation earlier this year that the relationship between Wellington and Beijing had frayed after New Zealand's cyber security agency rejected a proposal for tech giant Huawei to be used in a major roll-out of 5G internet across the country.

In 2008, New Zealand became the first developed country to sign a free trade deal with China, which is now its largest trading partner.

Officials had rejected suggestions New Zealand had been snubbed after Ardern was unable to turn an earlier invitation into a visit during her first year in government.

Australian Associated Press