Geoffrey Palmer needs a holiday. It’s bad enough that he’s acting as the mouthpiece for John Key’s pro-whaling policy that has the Japanese applauding and our allies shaking their heads in dismay. Now, he’s saying we should encourage visits by US naval vessels.
‘What’s so dumb about that?’ you may ask. Well, the US navy is welcome now, if they are willing to pledge that the ships they send are nuclear-free in keeping with our anti-nuclear legislation.
Here’s why US ships can’t visit New Zealand. It’s not because we banned all US ships, it’s because we banned ones that the US wouldn’t confirm are nuclear-free.
After the anti-nuke legislation was passed, the US asked permission for the Buchanan to visit us. The advice to the government was that the Buchanan was from a conventionally-powered class and unlikely to be equipped with nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, the government quite rightly asked the US to confirm that the Buchanan would not be nuclear-equipped. They refused to do so.
Now, what were we supposed to do? Let in a ship from a nuclear power that opposed our anti-nuke policy when that power wouldn’t promise that the ship was nuclear-free? Even though the odds of the Buchanan having nuclear weapons on board were low why should we have to make that assumption? If the US refuses to confirm or deny which ships are nuke-equipped, well good for them, but they can’t come here in that case.
If the US wants to send navy ships for a visit (and I’m not quite sure what anyone really gets out of that, the days of the Great White Fleet are long gone) then all it has to do is what other nuclear powers like the UK do: confirm that the vessels it sends don’t breach our country’s laws.
Is that too much to ask?