leon panetta

Leon Panetta, US Secretary of Defense

Since 1984, New Zealand has banned US warships carrying nuclear material, whether it be for fuel or as weaponry, from entering their ports.  The U.S. “one-fleet” policy has held that if any U.S. ships are restricted from an area, it will refrain from sending any ships there.

This policy has also kept New Zealand warships from calling on US ports and has somewhat complicated relations between the two countries ever since.

Today, during a press conference with New Zealand’s Defense Minister Dr. Jonathan Coleman, US Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced that he has eased the restrictions on New Zealand navy ship visits to Defense Department and Coast Guard facilities in the United States and around the world.  US warship visits to New Zealand, he added, will be permitted on an individual basis.

In response to a reporter’s question, Coleman said the policy against nuclear ships “is in place and will remain in place.”

The changes Panetta said, affirm that despite differences in some limited areas, the United States and New Zealand are embarking on a new course that will not let those differences stand in the way of greater engagement on security matters.

The secretary also discussed New Zealand’s involvement in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan.

“In my meeting with Minister Coleman, I expressed my profound appreciation … for New Zealand’s contributions to this international effort,” he said. Panetta said progress has come at a heavy price for New Zealand, which last month lost five service members to enemy violence in Afghanistan.

Coleman called Panetta’s trip to New Zealand “a very significant visit … [that] underscores the very warm state of the relationship between our two countries at all levels.”

Crossed flags image (c) Shutterstock/rolfik

 

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