New Zealand PM: Pacific Islands Forum is critical

STORY: "New Zealand is committed to the Pacific Islands Forum as the vehicle for addressing regional challenges," Ardern said in a speech to the Lowy Institute think tank in Australia.

"We have a strong commitment to supporting broader ambitions for our regions security," she said. "Importantly we see local security challenges being resolved locally, with Pacific Islands Forum Members' security being addressed first and foremost by the Forum family."

China's growing sway in the Pacific and the potential for militarisation in the region's small island nations has fanned concern, particularly in Australia and New Zealand as well as their partner, the United States. China, following on from its pact with the Solomon Islands, has been pushing for a regional co-operation deal with almost a dozen Pacific nations on policing, security and data communications.

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