23 Sep 2012

Key keen to send navy ship to US as soon as possible

6:33 am on 23 September 2012

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand wants to send a navy ship to the United States soon, although he is unsure if it could be before the end of the year.

Mr Key was speaking after a meeting in Auckland on Saturday with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.

During his visit to New Zealand, Mr Panetta said the ban on New Zealand ships entering US ports, in place since 1985, had been lifted.

Mr Key says the ban was a relic of the past. "I think they noticed what had happened when we trained together last time," he said, referring to a joint military training exercise in Hawaii this year.

"It (the ban) didn't really make a lot of sense, it was an historic position. And I think Mr Panetta's very committed to wanting that relationship to reflect the shape it's in and this was a vestige of the past that just didn't make any sense."

Mr Key said although New Zealand is not going to change it's anti-nuclear legislation and the US is not going to change it's position, the two countries have found a way through that, and the relationship has entered a new era.