9 Jan 2010

US to end ban on military exercises with NZ - report

3:30 pm on 9 January 2010

The office of the Foreign Affairs Minister is declining to comment on a report that the United States is set to end a ban on military exercises with New Zealand.

The Weekend Herald newspaper reports the move will occur when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits from this Friday.

Mrs Clinton will be in Auckland for three days of talks with Prime Minister John Key and other officials, as part of a tour of three Pacific countries.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully declined to comment on the report.

A ban by the United States on military exercises with New Zealand has been in place since 1985.

It was in reprisal for an anti-nuclear policy - which is now law - that effectively banned US nuclear-armed or powered ships which had been regular visitors to New Zealand waters.

'Moral victory' - Green view

Green Party MP Keith Locke says the removal of the ban means New Zealand can claim a moral victory for its nuclear-free stance.

He says the party will endorse the lifting of the ban, but not if it means participation in what he calls "unjustified foreign wars".

If it means further military commitment for New Zealand, he says - such as more SAS troops in Afghanistan - then it is a bad move.