US Secretary of State heading to NZ

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be in Wellington next week to meet Prime Minister Bill English and Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heading to New Zealand next week, in the first visit by a top official from President Donald Trump’s administration.

Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee announced he and Prime Minister Bill English would meet Tillerson in Wellington on June 6, describing it as a chance to strengthen the relationship between the two countries and “discuss some of the world’s most pressing issues”.

“We share a deep interest in maintaining peace, prosperity and stability in the Asia Pacific region and we have worked closely together to counter terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The announcement comes after English confirmed the Government had received a request from NATO, via the US, to send additional troops to assist with training efforts in Afghanistan.

It is the first visit by a high-ranking Trump official, after Vice President Mike Pence bypassed New Zealand on a visit to the Asia-Pacific region last month.

However, New Zealand has stolen a march on the diplomatic front, with former US senator Scott Brown set to be confirmed as one of the administration’s first ambassadors.

Brown’s nomination as ambassador to New Zealand was approved by the Senate’s foreign relations committee, and he is set to pass a full vote in the Senate after it resumes following a week-long recess.