U.S. lifts ban on New Zealand warships, New Zealand keeps nuclear-free stance

AUCKLAND Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:35am EDT

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (L) smiles next to New Zealand's Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman at the Government House in Auckland September 21, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (L) smiles next to New Zealand's Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman at the Government House in Auckland September 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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AUCKLAND (Reuters) - The United States has lifted a ban on visits by New Zealand warships to U.S. defense and coast guard bases around the world, further thawing relations after a 26-year stand-off on nuclear issues.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the announcement during a visit to New Zealand on Friday. He said Washington would lift restrictions on military exercises and facilitate more talks with New Zealand even though Wellington maintains its long-held nuclear-free stance.

For the first time since the suspension of the ANZUS Treaty in 1986, Washington will allow individual visits by Royal New Zealand Navy ships to U.S. Department of Defense or Coast Guard facilities in the United States and around the world, Panetta said in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city.

"These changes make it easier for our militaries to engage in discussions on security issues and to hold cooperative engagements that increase our capacity to tackle common challenges," he said.

Panetta said Washington and Wellington would work together despite lingering "differences of opinion in some limited areas".

The visit by Panetta, the first by a Pentagon chief in 30 years, signals a new era of U.S.-New Zealand defense links breached in the mid-1980s, when Wellington declared itself nuclear-free and barred its ports to nuclear warships.

While both Washington and Wellington acknowledged the improvement in relations and defense ties, New Zealand Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman said New Zealand had an independent foreign policy and that its anti-nuclear ban was not negotiable.

"I don't think that we should get too hung up about trying to turn the clock back to pre-1986 because the reality is that the relationship is very, very good," Coleman said at a news conference following their meeting.

New Zealand has a small contingent of troops fighting with U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

During his visit Panetta is also meeting with other senior leaders to explore deeper U.S. military engagement with New Zealand as the United States rebalances its forces to the Asia-Pacific as part of a new military strategy.

In July, the United States and New Zealand agreed to hold regular high-level talks and to cooperate on maritime security, counter-terrorism, and peacekeeping operations.

U.S. Marines trained in New Zealand earlier this year, and New Zealand's navy took part in the multi-nation Rimpac maritime exercise ships in July.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Comments (5)
assmuncher wrote:
So we let them dock at our ports, but they still won’t let our ships dock at theirs.
What did we gain from this agreement again?

Sep 21, 2012 3:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Sophie_G wrote:
New Zealand never banned US ships or shipping. The only change made in 1985 was that it insisted that New Zealand Laws be respected, by another similar government. The US reaction was and still is shameful,years of New Zealand’s goodwill was thrown away by the US republican government at the time.

The US policy was mean then and has cost influcance and its former leadership position in the pacific. The treatment of New Zealand at best was bulling and at worest was neo-colonialism.

It cost the US one of its closes and loyalist allied nation, for no point.

Sep 21, 2012 3:50am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Sonnyjc9 wrote:
Gives those who will want to leave if Obozo wins in Novembermore ships to leave on that are on their side.

Sep 21, 2012 4:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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