Is a US warship finally coming to New Zealand?



It’s still unclear whether the United States will accept an invitation to send a warship to the New Zealand Navy’s 75th birthday celebration next November.

For 30 years America has refused to send any navy ship because of our legislation preventing nuclear-armed or nuclear-powered vessel from entering our ports. The Americans have said that no country can pick and choose which of their navy ships is welcome.

The relaxing the American stance would be a major victory for anti-nuclear New Zealand. We were staunch for 30 years and eventually the Americans folded.

But that would not be the whole story. One aspect of the peace protests that produced our 1987 nuclear-free legislation was a desire for New Zealand to have a more independent foreign policy – to focus on peacemaking rather than joining the US in its foreign battles. We weren’t sad when the US said we were no longer and “ally” and pushed us out of ANZUS.

National governments have never been comfortable with non-alignment and under John Key have been pushing us back into an ANZUS-type strategic relationship. Joint military exercises are now common. Americans are currently participating in Southern Katipo, an exercise now taking place in the South Island. A Kiwi army group is now serving alongside the Americans at Camp Taji in Iraq. A US warship visit would signal New Zealand are pretty much “back in ANZUS”.

The tricky bit for the Americans is how to explain a warship visit without it being a backdown or contrary to its policy of “neither confirming nor denying” the presence of nuclear weapons on its ships. Its position up till now has been that a host government can’t state that a visiting US vessel has no nuclear weapons without contravening the “neither confirm nor deny policy”.

The NZ Herald thinks our government will help the US around this problem and “not be pronouncing on the ship’s weaponry.”

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This is where the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987 may still present a problem for the Americans. Under it “foreign warships” may only come here “if the Prime Minister is satisfied that the warships will not be carrying any explosive device.” The Prime Minister can hardly hide his or her determination – and could be subject to a legal challenge if he or she attempted to do so. Interestingly, the Act also specifies an advisory role on such matters for the Public Advisory Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control [Section 17 (1)(b), which again would make it hard for a Prime Minister to keep his or her determination out of the public realm.

The British have taken a more relaxed approach with their warship visits to New Zealand. In 1995 the frigate HMS Monmouth visited New Zealand after Prime Minister Bolger declared it didn’t have any nuclear weapons – on the basis of a British declaration that they had taken nuclear weapons off their surface ships.

The Americans have made a similar declaration regarding their surface ships. In 1991 President George Bush announced that “under normal circumstances, our ships will not carry nuclear weapons”, a stance repeated in 2002 when the US reported to a Non-Proliferation Treaty meeting that “worldwide, the United States has eliminated all nuclear weapons from surface ships.”

Despite this public knowledge of the nuclear-weapons status of its warships, the US might still not be comfortable with New Zealand using its nuclear-free legislation make a nuclear-free determination, and to “pick and choose” which US warships are welcome.

Or perhaps, noting a presence of Chinese warship at the 75th NZ Navy celebration, the Americans will swallow their pride and send their own warship.


  1. I do hope so!

    It would be SO COOL to have a US carrier parked in the Hauraki.

    It’s about time we ‘got over it’ and moved on.

    • Probably not going to be a CVN. Devonport can only birth vessels 170 odd meters long. And it would be an exceptional circumstance for a CVN to lay anchor. Ceremonial visits aren’t one of them.

      Anything above a frigate is probably out of the question so my guess would be a command or support ship, oiler. There really isn’t much else in the pacific worth sending.

      But seen as this is a mile stone in defence relations. The USN will be considering there choices carefully.

      • SAM – as I said, a carrier would be parked out in the gulf both for reasons of size and security.

        Think of the plane spotting opportunities!

        • Great. Just what we need – to be more closely linked to the American Empire. If anything makes us a target for ISIS, that’ll do it.

          Not the cleverest thing to do, eh, Andrew? Or haven’t you thought it through?

        • I think you miss understand what a ship visit entails Andrew. You maybe thinking of a training exercise.

          One thing to consider is a Nimitz costs $3NZD million a day to run. So an excessive like that with RNZN is only ever going to happen at RIMPAC (Hawaii)

  2. A positive role for NZ would be to have no foreign navy visit our country. Particularly worrisome is the US policy to ‘pivot to the Pacific’.
    Local people on Jeju Island South Korea and Okinawa Japan are angry about the American military expansion at their expense. Is the US looking for a fight with China?

    • Yeah well I don’t want RNZN or NZDF to be billy no mates. Firstly because we don’t have the defence budget to have an independent military. And second because we aren’t that stuck up.

      • Ten years ago the USN could send a Carrier group through the straights of Taiwan, not any more. And that is not because the Americans kept up its good international relations.

        It’s crazy to think that the US and New Zealand were allies against Japan in WW2. Now we are allied with Japan against China.

        That is ludicrous

  3. I hope the USN does send a ship here next year – as long as it isn’t nuclear powered or carrying nuclear weapons, we should welcome it and its crew. The precedent – with HMS Monmouth – has already been set. It was no big deal for our government to determine that it did not breach our nuclear free legislation. I suspect Locke’s infantile anti-Americanism is at play here. While I repect him for a lot of things, his dogmatic and reflexive political prejudices detract from them.

    • In logistical and security terms. Birthing Carriers or SSNs is probably not going to happen with out a minimum 2 million port upgrade for Devonport or at a stretch, Princes wharf.

    • Michael – I’d prefer we ban warships from all nations, with maybe Australia being an exception, with our close socio-economic-political links.

      The less we have to do with the manouverings of other militaristic nations (US, Russia, China, UK, et al), the better.

      • Short of moving our country to another planet, NZ must co-exist with all the other countries that exist on this one. Some of them will be more militaristic than others. In some cases, it will be in our interests to oppose militaristic nations (and non-national groups, such as Daesh); in those cases, we’re best to work with our traditional allies, as we have successfully before (World War 2 springs to mind as an example). I do think we should always aim to use military force in conjunction with the United Nations – this was a principle of the Clark government that worked well for us, AFAICS.

        • We should how ever choose our fights carefully. I do not for instance want any RNZN vessel involved in Americas gun boat deplomacy of the despised islands in the South China Sea.

          At a minimum Singapore should be included in the list of friendly nations because it is a major hub for NZDF activity, we neither have the range nor capability to bounce around Singapore with out stopping.

          99% of New Zealand’s trade and communications flow through Asia. So RNZN having friendly ports in Asia is of strategic importance. Same goes for pacific nations. Not just for anti pirate operations and general constabulary duties at sea, but also for disaster relief.

          On another note. UN rules of engagement says your not allowed to use anything larger than a 50cal. So unless you have about 20 billion to reorganise NZDF into a coastguard with enlarged army engineers attached. We will be a long way of achieving those objectives.

      • Yes. The US lobby wants the US navy to be able to come in regularly as before. That includes in conflict scenarios, including indeed nuclear ones.

        In such conflict scenarios US ships would quickly redeploy nuclear weapons. Which means our country can can again find itself on US antagonists’ nuclear-target as in the Cold War, and as Australia is now.

        Let’s learn from the past rather than try to repeat it!

        We can best help all our friends – including the US and China and others – as an independent communications and peace broker. Foreign Minister McCully proposed this vis a vis the US and China in 2012 (

        Obama himself told PM Key how New Zealand’s nuclear-free credentials positioned the country to contribute to a nuclear-free world ( New Zealand can also be valued helping liaise between the US and China on environmental issues (

        So instead of becoming caught up in large power conflicts, let’s instead prioritize building up our credentials as a nuclear-free peace and environmental broker.

  4. Good time to watch ‘the fog of war’
    and look at former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara illustrating his observations of the nature of modern warfare.

    If only the US defence and government could develop some self awareness! Probably the US would lock McNamara up these days with all the Hawkes blowing trillions of dollars into the Middle East.

    Ten additional lessons from R.S. McNamara[
    These topics were selected by McNamara to supplement the documentary; they are in the DVD’s special features.

    The human race will not eliminate war in this century, but we can reduce the brutality of war—the level of killing—by adhering to the principles of a “Just War,” in particular to the principle of “proportionality.”

    The indefinite combinations of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will lead to the destruction of nations.

    We [the U.S.A.] are the most powerful nation in the world—economically, politically, and militarily—and we are likely to remain so for decades ahead. But we are not omniscient. If we cannot persuade other nations with similar interests and similar values of the merits of the proposed use of that power, we should not proceed unilaterally except in the unlikely requirement to defend directly the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii.

    Moral principles are often ambiguous guides to foreign policy and defense policy, but surely we can agree that we should establish as a major goal of U.S. foreign policy and, indeed, of foreign policy across the globe: the avoidance, in this century, of the carnage—160 million dead—caused by conflict in the 20th century.

    We, the richest nation in the world, have failed in our responsibility to our own poor and to the disadvantaged across the world to help them advance their welfare in the most fundamental terms of nutrition, literacy, health and employment.

    Corporate executives must recognize there is no contradiction between a soft heart and a hard head. Of course, they have responsibilities to stockholders, but they also have responsibilities to their employees, their customers and to society as a whole.

    President Kennedy believed a primary responsibility of a president—indeed the primary responsibility of a president—is to keep the nation out of war, if at all possible.

    War is a blunt instrument by which to settle disputes between or within nations, and economic sanctions are rarely effective. Therefore, we should build a system of jurisprudence based on the International Court—that the U.S. has refused to support—which would hold individuals responsible for crimes against humanity.

    If we are to deal effectively with terrorists across the globe, we must develop a sense of empathy—I don’t mean “sympathy,” but rather “understanding”—to counter their attacks on us and the Western World.

    One of the greatest dangers we face today is the risk that terrorists will obtain access to weapons of mass destruction as a result of the breakdown of the Non-Proliferation Regime. We in the U.S. are contributing to that breakdown.

  5. I bet that the powers above both the NZ and US govts. told Jonkey Donkey to make the invitation as a gesture to show how cozy our phony relationship could be. Clearly the NZ public does not want a nuclear ship here but this is an act of defiance showing who is in charge and who wants control of the pacific region. N.W.O. ( Illuminati ) and Agenda 21 in full swing trying to create a collective consciousness. Let’s stop using the term “Conspiracy Theory” unless it is focused on those who are the REAL conspiracy mongers.

    There is a disgusting trend of pro nuclear which is slowly growing here in NZ with these greedy nuclear engineers and scientists and NUCLEAR INVESTORS trying to sell it to us. They are putting the final touches on destroying Japan with more plants, the insanity of it.

    The destruction of govts. and nationhood ( and the family structure ) are their goals in order to usher in the One World Order they have been planning for since before WW2. ( One world army (NATO) ; One world bank; One world health ( WHO ); one world govt. by the UN and on and on. Check out what Alan Watt has to say and also Rosa Koire and Ken O’Keefe and Gore Vidal and Max Keiser and CHRIS HEDGES and many more.

    The US dollar is about to collapse and the present NZ govt. wants so much to be in bed with the US. Let them know we will not tolerate nuclear ! ! anythings ! ! ! here. The nuclear industry has been silently and secretly meeting here in NZ behind closed doors promoting nuclear energy for many years now and most are unaware of that. Speak out and act out against nuclear power and nuclear ships brought here with any means and avenues you can. Lets tell Obama to keep his ships in his ports and not to bring them here.

    I predict that if Donkey gets in again, that he will propose our first nuclear power plant, wait and see.

    • I don’t think it’s clear at all that the NZ public doesn’t want a nuclear ship here.

      My guess:

      60% wouldn’t give a toss either way

      35% would welcome it for the entertainment value and business opportunity

      5% would detest it for outmoded historic reasons

      • 5% would detest it for outmoded historic reasons

        There is nothing “outmoded” about opposing imperialistic super-powers that play brinkmanship-politics with the fate of the planet and the human race, Andrew. All it would take is for a single miscalculation between US and Chinese (or Russian) warship commanders, or their respective political masters, and the result could be catastrophic. Have you learned nothing from the US-Cuban missile crisis of October 1962?

        You should learn up on it. It is truly frightening how close we came to atomic war and extinction.

        This is not some light-hearted game you seem to think it is.

      • Couldn’t disagree with you more Andrewo, as I usually do.
        You – like donkey jonkey only think you have a clue about what the NZ people are all about or what they want.

  6. I aint gonna say nuthin about Southern Katipo…. geez the colossal nerve of these guys…

    Actually I will…get out of my environment and stop trampling on my blasted webs – it took me all night to spin that and these oafs wreck it all in a second with one careless boot tread!!!!

    Bloody humans !!!

    • Damn straight Kim Dandy.

      I fear those of us who seriously want peace are in a minority.

      It is my opinion (and I expect many will disagree with me, that’s okay) that if we truly want peace we should do what Costa Rica have done. Disband our military. No military. A coastguard for search and rescue and to enforce our fishing laws in our waters, and a police force on land to enforce the law.

      Peace will not happen if everyone stays armed.

      It distresses me that NZ is becoming more closely aligned with the biggest war making nation on the planet, the USA.

      I recall watching the twin towers fall and being aghast that the US invaded Afghanistan in revenge. Back then it seemed very clear that their actions made them a bigger target for terrorists. Their constant meddling in other countries, including overthrowing democratically elected governments (the hypocrites!) means many people in the rest of the world hate them.

      I do not think it is safe for NZ to be aligned with those warmongers.

      And I’m aware that’s not a popular view. I don’t care.

  7. Or maybe it will be a nuclear armed warship, but that won’t worry National because they will simply change the law under urgency or simply just ignore it and invite such a warship anyway. Remember that National have never really been comfortable with the nuclear ship ban and only reluctantly went along with it because it had huge popular support. Key and National are so arrogant and up themselves that they think they can get away with anything, and they are probably right.
    With National, if you expect the worst you probably won’t be disappointed.

  8. Gone are the days of Battle Ship vs Battle Ship on the high seas. Yes the Navy both US, Britain, Canada, Russia, China have vessels of long range deployment capabilities. Military might doesn’t win a war. It’s individuals sacrificing themselves for a worthy cause who are apt at operating on the ground, discreet hitting targets which cause the most damage to both the the very foundations of government or to destabilize an economy. New Zealand’s navy can operate both in Peacetime and if called apon in actions of war. They are certainly doing a great job for all New Zealanders. Both the New Zealand Government and the US Government are quite apt at making a secure decision for the betterment of our nation collectively. Yes, and I am in no doubt that our future will lay in the decision that both Governments play in this, a pivotal turning point in our relations with our older brother.
    Welcome back Pacific Fleet.

  9. On the news that the US is still mulling over their invite received from the National government to bring an American warship here in defiance of our antinuclear stance.…/73574729/us-still-mulling-ship-vis…

    And well they might mull over this invitation.

    History shows that the Labour Government of David Lange tried the same trick in 1985, and failed. David Lange, just like John Key today, tried to get the USS Buchanan into our harbours, and was made to change his mind.

    How did it play out?

    A report in the ‘Listener’ at the time described how David Lange had a meeting with, (none other than our own), Nicky Hager. Nicky Hager was brought to Lange’s Beehive office, where Hager explained to Lange that the same protests that brought down the National Government of Robert Muldoon would be turned against his government.
    At the time of Hager’s warning to Lange, this was not an empty threat, Lange’s government was already vulnerable, becoming unpopular particularly with the unions, for the government’s extreme monetarist and neoliberal economic policies. It was the unions that had given steel to the anti-nuclear protests, with bans and strikes. After meeting Hager, Lange despite haven given secret assurances to US Secretary of State that the Buchanan’s visit would not be opposed, reluctantly had to phone the Whitehouse and tell them to turn their ship around, (The Buchanan had at this stage left its base in Hawaii and was already over half way here). Lange told the Listener that the antinuclear movement was his most feared lobby group.

    The Labour Party today makes a big play of being the party that made New Zealand nuclear free, and on many levels this is true, particularly at the grass roots where the LECs had become clearing houses for the antinuclear protest movement.
    Rod Donald probably the most effective Leftist lobbyist in New Zealand history, (later as a Green Party MP, famed for his successful lobbying of the Bolger administration that saw this country achieve MMP). Donald, previously of the Values Party, had left Values to join the then opposition Labour Party. It was activists like Donald inside the Labour Party that got Richard Prebble (later of ACT) to put up his infamous private members bill calling for New Zealand to become Nuclear Free.
    The huge protests and strikes plus the work of activists like Donald who lobbied National MPs Marilyn Waring and Mike Minogue to cross the floor robbed the Government of their majority, and Prebble’s bill was set to pass, which would have effectively made New Zealand Nuclear Free in 1984.
    To prevent the bill being voted on, Prime Minister Muldoon with the support of his cabinet called a snap election, the cabinet and Muldoon knew that National had little hope of winning the snap election, the snap election had one purpose, that purpose was to stop the antinuclear legislation. The unspoken hope, was that a Labour government would be better at blunting the anti nuclear movement.

    Unfortunately things didn’t go quite to plan.

    On achieving power, just as expected, the parliamentary Labour Party under threats and pressure from the US, the Civil Service linked to our own deep state, (whose secret links with the US NSA have only just recently been uncovered). Under this pressure the Labour Government became very reluctant to pass the promised legislation. Instead the plan was hatched to bring in the Buchanan.
    Unfortunately (or fortunately), the protest movement was far too strong at that time for them to get away with it. But the Lange government did achieve what Muldoon could not. Muldoon had not been able to put off the legislation for one day.
    The Labour administration were able to put off enacting the anti nuclear legislation for three years.
    It was not until just one month out from the 1987 election, that the increasingly unpopular Labour Government facing revolt from their grass roots and the unions, for what had become known as “Rogernomics” finally agreed to pass the promised legislation.
    As a result the 1987 election became a landslide for Labour, their Left and working class base, despite being under vicious attack stayed loyal, and previous National voters pleased with the new neoliberal direction of the government also voted Labour.
    This swing was so profound that Labour almost won the most conservative seat in the country, Remuera. (Now Epsom), Only losing Remuera to the National Party candidate by 9 votes.

    The question is, Can we do it again?

    The victory against nuclear ships had many elements.

    Times have changed, a large part of the electorate burnt by Rogernomics no longer take part in the political process. One of the fall out effects of the Rogernomics era is that the Labour Party is no longer the mass membership organisation it once was, and is unlikely to be so ever again. As well as this; following the passing of the Antinuclear legislation the Labour government passed legislation making all political strikes illegal, this law was later incorporated and strengthened in the National Government’s Employment Contracts Act. The ECA also had the effect of decimating the union movement, removing one of the key elements of the successful antinuclear movement.

    Could we do it again?

    Would the unions be prepared to take illegal strike action?

    Could any National MPs be lobbied to cross the floor?

    Could the Labour Party LECs again become clearing houses and organising centres for protest action?

    What’s your opinion?

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