U.S. Warship First Visit in 30 Years To New Zealand for Anniversary Celebration

USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) July 2016.  Source: US Navy Photo
USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) July 2016. Source: US Navy Photo

For the first time in thirty years, the U.S. will be sending a warship to New Zealand.

In a joint news conference, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced that New Zealand invited the U.S. to participate in the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary this year. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that he gladly accepted the offer. The visit will end thirty years of stalemate sparked by New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy.

In 1984, New Zealand barred nuclear powered or nuclear-armed ships from entering its waters or using its ports. Because the U.S. will not officially confirm or deny whether their ships have nuclear capability, New Zealand has banned them from their waters ever since the anti-nuclear policy was passed.

In recent years, military relations between the two countries have improved.

“It will be yet another expression of [the] close and cooperative relationship between both of our countries,” Biden said.

“It would be very odd for us to have all of our friends and acquaintances there, sending ships to celebrate our 75th Naval commemorations, and… not have the United States there,” Key told reporters.

Key has not officially signed off on the visit. He needs to be assured that the ship being sent by the U.S. does not have nuclear capabilities before he can formally approve the visit in order to comply with New Zealand law.

“We’ve found a way of respecting one another but agreeing that we’ve got a different position on these matters,” Key said.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE