US lifts ban on visits from navy vessels


After a 25-year ban, America will begin allowing Royal New Zealand Navy ships to visit US military and Coast Guard facilities around the world.

New Zealand banned nuclear weapons from its territory 25 years ago so US warships have not been able to enter its ports. In retaliation, New Zealand ships were not allowed in US military or Coast Guard ports.

The US is also removing restrictions to make it easier for the two militaries to engage in exercises, and for leaders to hold security discussions as the US re-focuses attention on the Asia-Pacific region.

Leon Panetta, who is the first US Defence Secretary to visit New Zealand since 1986, said yesterday: "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."

The New Zealand Defence Minister, Jonathan Coleman, said his country's ban on nuclear warships would continue. But he said the US has accepted that and the two countries have moved on.