Location China China

U.S. navy to return to New Zealand first time in three decades

WELLINGTON, July 21 (Xinhua) — The United States Navy is to return to New Zealand waters for the first time since a rift formed between the two countries over New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance 32 years ago.

Visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Prime Minister John Key confirmed Thursday that the U.S. Navy had accepted an invitation to join an international fleet review to mark the New Zealand navy’s 75th anniversary in Auckland in November.

“There is a long-standing process for considering ship visits under our nuclear-free legislation. I will receive advice in due course to assist me in making a decision,” said Key in a statement.

“There is no specific time frame for this process, but it is likely to be a number of weeks before the advice is prepared and the government is in a position to make any further announcement.”

Biden, the first U.S. vice president to visit New Zealand since 1970, touched down in Auckland Wednesday at the start of a 24-hour visit to New Zealand.

Peace activists said Wednesday they would take to the seas to disrupt any United States navy visits.

Peace campaigners last took to the seas to block U.S. Navy visits in the early 1980s, before the New Zealand government banned visits by nuclear armed and powered vessels.

The U.S. froze New Zealand out of defense cooperation after the ban, but the Washington and Wellington declarations of recent years have seen renewed military contacts.

The international campaign group Greenpeace said Thursday that the U.S. ship decision was a victory for people power.

“Thirty years ago New Zealanders drew a line in the sand. We said, ‘We are nuclear free’ and if a country wants to send a warship here it must be free of nuclear weapons and not nuclear powered,” Greepeace New Zealand executive director Russel Norman said.

“The U.S. balked at this, but for 33 years we’ve stood our ground. Now they’re sending a ship here on our terms,” Norman said in a statement.

“Regardless of what you think of the U.S. Navy, or other navies, this is an historic victory for people power.”


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