A polite disagreement between Pacific Ocean neighbors on Thursday showed a fissure among U.S. allies over China, underscoring the difficulties Joe Biden faces in forging a common front against Beijing.

New Zealand distanced itself from Australia, a partner in the Five Eyes along with the U.S., U.K. and Canada, over whether the intelligence-sharing pact should admonish China on its human-rights record. The organization dates back to an alliance forged in World War II.

"The Five Eyes arrangement is about a security and intelligence framework,” Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said at a news conference with her Australian counterpart Marise Payne in Wellington. "It’s not necessary, all the time on every issue, to invoke Five Eyes as your first port of call in terms of creating a coalition of support around particular issues in the human-rights space.”