Washington (AFP) – The United States and New Zealand will resume bilateral military cooperation after a near-total 30-year interruption, the two countries’ defense ministries said Monday.
The improvement in military relations comes as part of the U.S. strategy to pay more attention to the Asia-Pacific region, amid China’s growing clout.
“We’re also very pleased to see the resumption of mil to mil talks after 30 years,” cheered New Zealand defense minister Jonathan Coleman during a press conference at the Pentagon with his U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel.
The two countries plan to develop cooperation in peacekeeping and military training, humanitarian aid and emergency response, the two ministries explained.
“In addition to high-level visits like this one, we’ve had a productive set of exercises and training initiatives, the first joint defense policy talks in almost three decades,” Hagel noted.
Wellington is set to send a ship to participate in the international anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, as well as to participate in next year’s RIMPAC near Hawaii — the world’s biggest multi-national naval exercise.
“Today I authorized a New Zealand navy ship to dock at Pearl Harbor for RIMPAC 2014,” Hagel said.
This would be one of the first visits of a New Zealand ship in a U.S. military port since the United States lifted a ban in September 2012 that had been in place since 1986.
Washington had ordered the embargo as a reprisal for a New Zealand ban on nuclear-armed or nuclear-powered submarines from entering the Pacific island nation’s waters.