Decades-Old Nuclear Standoff Finally Ends ... With New Zealand

Sep 23, 2012

A little-known, but longtime nuclear standoff ended this week when U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted a 26-year-old ban that kept New Zealand naval ships from docking at U.S. bases.

As the L.A. Times reports, the ban stems from New Zealand's nuclear-free policy that forbid U.S. warships carrying nuclear weapons or using nuclear power into the nation's ports.

The ban resurfaced earlier this year when ships from New Zealand were denied permission to dock at Pearl Harbor during a large international naval exercise.

The move by Panetta, the first U.S. defense secretary to visit New Zealand since 1982, is an attempt to ease the long-running dispute. New Zealand's ban, however, is likely to remain intact, the Times reports.

"The U.S. move is an overture to New Zealand at a time when the Pentagon is rebuilding military relations in the region, in part to counter China's growing clout in the South Pacific.

But there are few signs that New Zealand will reciprocate by easing its anti-nuclear law to allow a return of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships to its ports."

Panetta acknowledged the U.S. and New Zealand would continue to have differences of opinion in some limited areas, but that "we are embarking on a new course that will not let these differences stand in the way of greater engagement on security issues."

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