In port visit, New Zealand and U.S. seek to bolster military ties
By David B. Larter
PEARL HARBOR (June 28, 2016) The Royal New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZS Te Kaha (FFH 155) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016. Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy Photo By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Phillip Pavlovich/Released)
After a 30-year impasse, the U.S. Navy is returning to the land of orcs and wizards this fall.
Vice President Joe Biden, alongside New Zealand Prime Minister John Keye, announced Thursday that the U.S. has accepted New Zealand’s invitation to send a ship to the Southeast Pacific allynation to celebrate the Navy’s 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy in November.
New Zealand, which served as the backdrop for Peter Jackson’s epic "Lord of the Rings" movies, has prohibited nuclear-powered ships and ships carrying nuclear weapons since the mid-1980s. The U.S. policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons created an impasse that has meant no U.S. warships have visited one of the world's most beautiful and remote nations sincein three decades. the de-facto ban on U.S. ships entering New Zealand’s ports.
According to the 75th Anniversary's website, the port visit will likely be a group sail into Auckland Harbor from Nov. 17 through Nov. 21.
But The visit, which military officials say will likely be conducted by a destroyer, signals a thawing in does not end the decades-long spat but is seen as a and say this is likely a one-off until restrictions are fully lifted on U.S. warships.
"It's an important step, it's progress, but this isn't going to be a regular occurrence until port visits can be conducted without restrictions," said a Pentagon official familiar with internal deliberations.
The Navy has not changed its policy to refuse to confirm or deny denying the presence of nuclear weapons, and the port visit will be conducted on what amounts to a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, said one Navy official, who asked for anonymity to discuss high-level deliberations. speaking on background.
"The Government of New Zealand did not ask us for those details and the U.S. has not changed its policy in that regard," the official said in an email.
It is widely known, however, that U.S. surface combatants such as destroyers have not typically carried nuclear weapons in decades.
carried nuclear weapons for decades.Navy officials have declined to name the lucky ship that will do the honors.
But The port visit in November represents a big leap forward for relations between the U.S.Navy and New Zealand, allies who have drawn progressively closer since China began rattling sabers in the East and South China seas, the two nations have drawn closer together. New Zealand began participating in the biennial Rim of the Pacific Exercise in 2012 and is currently operating with the RIMPAC group.
The breakthrough came after years of high-level visits from U.S. Navy officials and a visit from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in May. Third Fleet commander Vice Adm. Nora Tyson was there in March and in 2014, then-U.S. Pacific Command head Adm. Sam Locklear visited to discuss military-to-military engagements.
The U.S. and New Zealand have historically had strong ties. New Zealand fought alongside the U.S. in World Wars I and II and in more recent decades has sent its troops to Afghanistan and Iraq. They are also a member of the intelligence sharing arrangement known as the "Five Eyes."
About David B. Larter
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.