AP Interview: Republic 'not a priority' for New Zealand

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday the world is watching closely to see if recent optimism over North Korea leads to the elimination of its nuclear weapons program.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Ardern also said New Zealand is among many nations concerned about the tit-for-tat trade war between China and the U.S. She said the idea of New Zealand becoming a republic is not a priority for her government.

Ardern spoke with the AP at her home in Auckland as she prepared to return to the capital, Wellington, after six weeks of leave following the birth of her daughter, Neve.

Ardern, 38, is just the second elected world leader in recent history to give birth while holding office. She said she was surprised by the messages of support she has received from citizens all around the world.

Asked if she felt pressure to be a role model as a working mother in such a high-profile job, she said that every new parent feels some pressure.

"I just happen to be doing it publicly," she said. "So I guess it's different in one regard. But one day, hopefully, it won't be."

Ardern said the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the return of human remains from the Korean War had given the world hope.

"But, of course, that needs to be fulfilled by further demonstration that there will be denuclearization," she said. "So I think that everyone's probably waiting with bated breath."

She said New Zealand believes in a rules-based system for trade and the security that the World Trade Organization can provide.

She said her nation may need to finish working through its process of addressing historic injustices committed against indigenous Maori before it can sever its constitutional ties with Britain, whose Queen Elizabeth II remains New Zealand's head of state.

"At the moment, the issue of New Zealand being a republic is just not a priority," she said.

She said her vision for the country was for it to live up to how peopled viewed it.

"We believe ourselves to be clean and green. We believe ourselves to be fair minded, to have a strong sense of social justice, and we think we're innovative," she said. "Actually, we need to do a lot more to make that a reality."