US Navy to visit New Zealand after three-decade nuclear row

The U.S. Navy will send one of its ships to attend the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary later this year.

What makes this announced visit so extraordinary is that the designated US Navy ship would be the first in 31 years to visit New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act from 1987 declared territorial sea, land and airspace of New Zealand as nuclear-free zones sparking a stalemate between the U.S. and New Zealand.

The act barred all U.S. Navy ships from entering New Zealand as the the U.S. never provided details about the navy ship’s nuclear features.

While this latest announcement is a sign of a thawing stalemate between the two countries, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key stressed that the US would have to abide by New Zealand laws when it came.

“Vice-President Joe Biden confirmed in our discussions today that the US has accepted the invitation and intends to have a ship represent the US Navy at this event,” Key said.

“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.

“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.”

Greenpeace welcomed the U.S. Government’s decision to send a warship to New Zealand declaring it a huge 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,” said Russel Norman, Executive Director of Greenpeace NZ.

“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.”

New Zealanders should be immensely proud. We stood up to the mightiest military power on earth, not to mention a traditional ally. And we won.”