[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific
US ends ban on visits by New Zealand warships
Ease in restrictions comes as Leon Panetta becomes the first US defence secretary to visit the country in 30 years.
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2012 09:33
Panetta, left, said the US and New Zealand would work together despite 'differences of opinion' [GALLO/GETTY]

The US says it has lifted a ban on visits by New Zealand warships to US defence and coast guard bases around the world, further thawing relations after a 26-year stand-off on nuclear issues.

Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, made the announcement in Auckland during a visit to the country on Friday.

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

For the first time since the suspension of the ANZUS Treaty in 1986, the US will allow individual visits by Royal New Zealand Navy ships to US defence department or coast-guard facilities in the US and around the world, Panetta said.

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

Panetta said the US would lift restrictions on military exercises and facilitate more talks with New Zealand even though the country maintained its long-held nuclear-free stance.

He said the US and New Zealand would work together despite lingering "differences of opinion in some limited areas".

'Very, very good' ties

While both countries acknowledged the improvement in relations and defence ties, Jonathan Coleman, New Zealand's defence minister, said his country 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 following their meeting.

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

During his visit Panetta was scheduled to meet other senior leaders to explore deeper US military engagement with New Zealand as the US rebalances its forces to the Asia-Pacific as part of a new military strategy.

In July, the US and New Zealand agreed to hold regular high-level talks and to co-operate on maritime security, counter-terrorism, and peacekeeping operations.

Members of the US Marine Corps trained in New Zealand earlier this year, and New Zealand's navy took part in the multi-nation Rimpac maritime exercise ships in July.

376

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
A former rebel's museum keeps alive memories of the July 26, 1953 veterans who launched Cuba's revolution.
A revolutionary new treatment is halving hospitalisation rates for severe asthma sufferers.
More than fifty years of an armed struggle for independence from Spain might be coming to an end in the Basque Country.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
After the shooting-down of flight MH17, relatives ask what the carrier has learned from still-missing MH370.
join our mailing list