New Zealand leader says US lacks interest in Asia-Pacific

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — New Zealand’s prime minister says the United States is losing interest in the Asia-Pacific, as concerns grow about China’s growing influence in the region.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was speaking on Friday in Melbourne where she met with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison to discuss regional cooperation.

Ardern’s comments come as New Zealand pushes for a free-trade deal with the United States and has shown concern about the rising influence of China in the Pacific.

China’s influence in the region will be on the agenda in Australia next week when Morrison hosts the new leader of Australia’s nearest neighbor, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape.

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The United States and Australia are committed to redevelop a Papua New Guinea naval base on Manus Island.

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