Andrea Vance broke a potentially explosive story on One News last night: Defence force may be in talks to allow nuclear ship visit (video). Nuclear ship? Red alert!!
An invitation to the US has been extended, this is part of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary celebrations next year, many countries have been invited. But let’s hope that the headline is wrong and it is not nuclear, as obviously this would violate NZ’s nuclear free policy. At time of writing there seems to be some confusion on the matter.
Here’s Vernon Small’s take:
Invitation to US Navy could see the end of 30-year standoff over ship visits
The New Zealand navy has issued an invitation to the United States to join in the navy’s 75th birthday celebrations next year, potentially ending the 30-year freeze on military ship visits here.
New Zealand’s nuclear free policy, enacted in 1985, bans nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ships from entering ports here. … While the law requires the prime minister to confirm, to his satisfaction, that any ships are not nuclear armed or powered, it has in practice always required the US to drop their “neither confirm nor deny policy”.
The US has made it clear surface vessels are not nuclear armed, and it will be easy to ascertain from public records whether it is nuclear powered.
However in the past that has not removed the roadblock to the US sending a ship – the neither confirm nor deny issue – even though there have been suggestions a low-profile visit, such as by a coast guard vessel, could solve the impasse.
It seems from that the US could send a ship (or other “asset”) that was obviously not nuclear (which satisfies our law), while still refusing to confirm or deny (which satisfies their policy).
Given that One News was reporting that the ship would be nuclear, I’m not sure what information Annette King was working with when she responded:
Labour deputy leader Annette King said she did not believe New Zealanders would accept the PM could decide to end that policy.
It’s not clear that the nuclear free policy is being ended – and I can see no reason why Key would want to buy that fight!
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully on Friday said … “Our law requires the Prime Minister to make a determination that foreign military aircraft and vessels are not nuclear powered or carrying nuclear weapons before entering New Zealand. He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised the Prime Minister “to assist in his determination”. “The same legislation applies to all foreign visiting military aircraft and ships.”
If it can be determined from public records that a ship being send by the US is not nuclear then I don’t see any problem. Their “neither confirm nor deny” is a stupid cold-war relic, but I don’t see it as a deal-breaker. Anyway, let’s not panic until we get a bit more clarity on what is going on here.