New Zealand's Ardern decries UN 'failure' over Ukraine war
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Russia must be held to account for its invasion (DEAN LEWINS POOL/AFP)

The UN Security Council has failed in its response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday, describing Moscow's role as "morally bankrupt."

Ardern, who has long argued against the Security Council veto powers held by the five permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, reiterated her call for reform of the body.

The UN's "failure" over Ukraine was caused by Russia's position with a veto in the Security Council, she said in an address to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute think-tank during a trade visit to Australia.

Russia had used its place on the council to take a "morally bankrupt position in the wake of a morally bankrupt and illegal war", Ardern said.

New Zealand would seek reforms to the UN Security Council to ensure that its value and relevance does not diminish, she said.

"We must reform the United Nations so that we don't have to rely on individual countries imposing their own autonomous sanctions," Ardern said.

Russia must be held to account for its invasion, she said.

Ardern called for the International Criminal Court in The Hague to get the resources it needs to probe and prosecute war crimes.

New Zealand would intervene as a third party in Ukraine's case against Russia at the court, she added.

China's role on Ukraine

But the prime minister warned against taking a "black and white" view of the world, casting the Ukraine invasion as a war between the West and Russia or democracy against autocracy, and pushing away important players such as China.

"Let's not assume that China as a member of the Security Council does not have a role to play in placing pressure in response to what is the loss of territorial integrity at the hands of Russia," the New Zealand leader said.

"Let's not just isolate and assume that it's only democracies that take this view."

China's growing diplomatic and security sway in the Pacific region -- notably its signature of a secretive security pact with Solomon Islands in April -- has fed concern among some Western nations about its intentions.

But Ardern said China had long been a player in the region and it would be wrong to expect sovereign Pacific island states to "pick sides".

As tensions rise in the Pacific, diplomacy should be the "strongest tool", she said, warning against isolating big players instead of engaging with them.

Even as China becomes "more assertive", there are still areas for cooperation with Beijing such as trade, Ardern said.

New Zealand had nevertheless put on record its concerns about China's actions in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and its treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, including through multilateral institutions, she said.

© 2022 AFP