US to reinstate New Zealand military ship visits

Sep 21, 2012, 2:18 AM

Associated Press

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) – After a 25-year ban, America will begin allowing Royal New Zealand Navy ships to visit U.S. military and Coast Guard facilities around the world, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday.

He said a policy change will allow the defense secretary to authorize individual visits. He said the U.S. also was removing restrictions to make it easier for the two militaries to engage in exercises and for leaders to hold security discussions as the U.S. refocuses attention on the Asia-Pacific region.

“While we acknowledge that our countries continue to have differences of opinion in some limited areas, today we have affirmed that we are embarking on a new course in our relationship that will not let those differences stand in the way of greater engagement on security issues,” Panetta said.

He spoke during a news conference Friday at the Government House with New Zealand Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman.

New Zealand banned nuclear weapons from the country 25 years ago so U.S. warships have not been able to enter its ports, and New Zealand ships were not allowed in U.S. military or Coast Guard ports.

The New Zealand minister, however, said his country’s ban on nuclear warships will continue. But he said the U.S. has accepted that and the two countries have moved on.

Panetta’s visit to New Zealand, the first by a Pentagon chief in 30 years, is part of a U.S. effort to rebuild military ties that were fractured over New Zealand’s ban on nuclear warships.

In recent years the relationship between the two countries has begun to thaw, and in June officials signed a new defense agreement that focuses on building maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region, establishing regular policy dialogue and working together to counter threats.

The relationship between the two countries has improved significantly since New Zealand first sent troops to Afghanistan in 2003, and particularly since the center-right National Party, which is seen as U.S.-friendly, came to power in 2008.

Senior defense officials traveling with Panetta said there were no plans to sign a new defense treaty with New Zealand at this point. Instead, they said leaders wanted to begin moving toward a new defense relationship that would allow greater defense cooperation, including counter-piracy measures, military exercises and training on amphibious ships.

Advancing military ties with New Zealand is part of the U.S. military’s new focus on the Asia Pacific as the Pentagon shifts more troops and ships to the region. The U.S. hopes to work with New Zealand in the South Pacific, where the Wellington government has close ties with other island nations.

Panetta has been on a weeklong tour of the Pacific, with earlier stops in China and Japan. But throughout the trip he has insisted that the new pivot to the Pacific is not aimed at containing or threatening China. The U.S., however, has been critical of China’s military buildup and wary as Beijing expands it economic reach and trade through the Pacific.

The officials, who outlined U.S. goals for the visit, spoke on condition of anonymity because the meetings with New Zealand officials had not yet occurred.

Panetta came to thank New Zealand for its participation in the Afghanistan war. New Zealand has about 180 troops there, working as a provincial reconstruction team. So far 10 New Zealand troops have been killed, with five of those deaths occurring in August, including the first female combat casualty in the nation’s history.

Besides Coleman, Panetta also was to meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully and Prime Minister John Key.

The nuclear weapons ban is popular among the general public in New Zealand but remains a sticking point for the U.S. in resuming a full military relationship. Officials said there is no consideration of sending only non-nuclear U.S. ships to New Zealand.

Still, there have been tangible steps in recent months to forge greater defense cooperation.

During a visit in May, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano signed agreements between the U.S. and New Zealand to improve and increase intelligence-sharing on international criminal organizations, improve the flow of passengers and cargo between the two countries, and better identify threats to air safety.

And earlier this year, U.S. Marines visited New Zealand for the first time in at least 25 years.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

People search a collapsed building following an earthquake in Azmarin town, Idlib province, norther...
Associated Press

Death toll soars after powerful earthquake rocks Turkey and Syria

A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and neighboring Syria on Monday, killing and injuring thousands of people.
1 day ago
FILE - A fuel trucks drives along a highway in Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 27, 2023. European Union go...
Associated Press

Europe bans Russian diesel, other oil products over Ukraine

The new sanctions create uncertainty about prices as the 27-nation European Union finds new supplies of diesel from the U.S., Middle East and India.
2 days ago
(Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BoF VOICES)...
Associated Press

Vivienne Westwood, influential fashion maverick, dies at 81

Vivienne Westwood, an influential fashion maverick who played a key role in the punk movement, died Thursday at 81.
1 month ago
FILE - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during his first Cabinet meeting flanked by his ...
Associated Press

Rishi Sunak: UK’s ex-Treasury chief gets his shot at PM job

LONDON (AP) — Rishi Sunak ran for Britain’s top job and lost. Then he got another shot — and the chance to say “I told you so.” The former U.K. Treasury chief was runner-up to Liz Truss in the contest to replace the scandal-plagued Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister. But Truss […]
4 months ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss addresses the media in Downing Street in London, Thursday, Oct. ...
Associated Press

Truss quits, but UK’s political and economic turmoil persist

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss quit Thursday after a tumultuous and historically brief term marred by economic policies that roiled financial markets and a rebellion in her political party that obliterated her authority. After just 45 days in office, Truss became the third Conservative prime minister to be toppled in as many […]
4 months ago
People receive medical treatment at the scene of Russian shelling, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 1...
Associated Press

Russia unleashes biggest attacks in Ukraine in months

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia retaliated Monday for an attack on a critical bridge by unleashing its most widespread strikes against Ukraine in months, a lethal barrage that smashed civilian targets, knocked out power and water, shattered buildings and killed at least 14 people. Ukraine’s Emergency Service said nearly 100 people were wounded in the […]
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
US to reinstate New Zealand military ship visits