Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung travels to New Zealand for an official visit Thursday following news that the island nation spied on Hanoi as part of its surveillance alliance with the United States.
The visit is officially aimed at strengthening bilateral ties with Wellington, but comes at an awkward moment following a report by the New Zealand Herald.
The report, based on documents leaked by fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, said New Zealand spied on Vietnam and other nations to “help fill gaps in worldwide surveillance operations by the United States National Security Agency (NSA)."
Nicky Hager, a Wellington-based investigative reporter and one of the authors of the Herald report, told VOA that New Zealand ran a spying operation against Vietnam, a trading partner it has friendly ties with, as part of a surveillance alliance called “Five Eyes” alongside the U.S., Britain, Canada, and Australia.
He added it shows the discrepancy between New Zealand’s secret and official foreign policies.
“What these documents show about New Zealand is that it is running a two-track foreign policy. One foreign policy which is the public one, which is ‘we are friendly with Asian countries, and we don’t have [an] enemy in the world.’ But it also runs a secret policy, which comes out of belonging to the U.S. intelligence alliance where we adopt other countries as enemies and spy on them even though publicly [we] call them our friends," said Hager.
The documents, published on March 11, revealed that Wellington accessed "internal communication networks from covert listening posts hidden in New Zealand embassies and high commission buildings.”
VOA’s Vietnamese Service has sought comment from the New Zealand Embassy in Vietnam, but it did not provide a response. Hanoi also has not publicly responded to the allegations.
It is unclear whether Dung will discuss the surveillance scandal with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
Snowden, who is currently living in Russia, leaked a large cache of classified NSA documents in 2013.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Vietnamese Service.