|U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meets with New Zealand Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman, in a first step to normalize relations between the two countries nearly 30 years after the U.S. punished New Zealand for its ban on nuclear weapons.
By Hans M. Kristensen
Hat tip to the Obama administration for doing the right and honorable thing: breaking with outdated Reagan administration policy and sending Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to New Zealand and ease restrictions on New Zealand naval visits to U.S. military bases.
The move shows that Washington after nearly 30 years of punishing the small South Pacific nation for its ban against nuclear weapons may finally have come to its senses and decided to end the vendetta in the interest of more important issues.
The New Zealand defense minister made it quite clear that the move does not mean a change to New Zealand’s policy of denying nuclear warships access to its harbors. “New Zealand has made it very clear that the policy remains unchanged and will remain unchanged.”
Whether (or how soon) the move will result in a resumption of U.S. naval visits to New Zealand remains to be seen. The U.S. Navy still has two policies that would appear to prevent this. One is a “one-fleet” policy that holds that if any U.S. ships are restricted from an area, it will refrain from sending any ships there. The other is the Neither Confirm Nor Deny Policy (NCND), which prohibits disclosing if a warship carries nuclear weapons or not, a leftover from the Cold War when stuff like that was important.
These policies leave an irritant in place that doesn’t need to be there. It seems that both countries can makes modifications to their policies to allow normal military relations to resume. Continue Reading →