Normality allowed to return after David Lange’s brain fart put New Zealand out in the cold

Russian Naval training ship visiting Auckland in 2007

Russian Naval training ship visiting Auckland in 2007

The US decision to send a naval ship to New Zealand for our own navy’s 75th birthday puts to bed the ludicrous prospect of the occasion being marked by other friendly nations, while one of our oldest and closest “allies” stayed away.

And it deals with the last remaining hangover from the bust up over New Zealand’s anti-nuclear legislation. […]

Officials had advised Lange that the ship, the USS Buchanan, was “almost certain” to be free of nuclear weapons, so not in breach of New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy. But it was denied anyway on the grounds that the Government could not give an absolute assurance that was the case.

The long-standing US policy of neither confirming or denying whether a ship is nuclear armed or propelled meant they could not contradict that advice.

There have been months of behind the scenes to-ing and fro-ing between New Zealand and US officials who would have needed assurances that the same thing won’t happen again.

The New Zealand government would have stressed that a ship visit does not require the US to go back on its “neither confirm or deny” policy – a judgement on whether a ship complies with New Zealand’s anti nuclear laws is purely a domestic one, made by the prime minister of the day on advice of his officials.

The whole situation was a petulant mistake, and the fact it has taken 30 years and a John Key government to fix this goes to show that you don’t score cheap political points domestically by throwing your international friends under the bus.

In 2007 Helen Clark allowed a Russian naval training vessel to visit Auckland, sending clear signals to the West that a New Zealand under a Labour government would not only reject the Queen but also the West. As you recall, it was Clark who negotiated the first free-trade agreement with China.

If anything, criticism has to be thrown the way of the Americans for leaving New Zealand out in the cold for so long, for a government and policies the current voters have rejected repeatedly and resoundingly.


– Tracy Watkin

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