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US warship to visit New Zealand and end 30-year stalemate

AP  |  Wellington 

A US Navy warship will visit next month for the first time since the 1980s, ending a 30-year-old military stalemate between the countries that was triggered when banned nuclear warships.

Prime Minister John Key announced today that he had given clearance for the destroyer USS Sampson to visit during celebrations marking the Royal Navy's 75th anniversary.

The visit marks a continued thaw in military relations, which turned frosty when enacted its nuclear-free policy in the mid-1980s.

The policy prevents ships that have nuclear weapons or are nuclear powered from visiting. Because the US won't officially confirm or deny if its ships have nuclear capabilities, had imposed a blanket ban on US ships.

But Key said he'd taken advice from his own officials and was "100 per cent confident" the USS Sampson wasn't nuclear powered or carrying nuclear weapons.

"I think it's a sign of the fact that the relationship between and the United States is truly in the best shape it's been since the anti-nuclear legislation was passed," Key said. "All of those last vestiges of the dispute that we had have really been put to one side."

Key said he didn't think the result of the upcoming US presidential election would affect the relationship.

The dispute began in 1985 when the government refused to allow a US destroyer to visit. The US responded by downgrading its military ties. passed its nuclear-free law in 1987.

The relationship improved after 2001, said Rear Admiral John Martin, the chief of the Navy, when agreed to send special forces and later a reconstruction team to Afghanistan.

The US and signed defence agreements in 2010 and 2012.

"We've been working with the US Navy for many decades and we're looking forward to hosting them down here," Martin said. "A birthday is not complete without your friends."

Mark Gilbert, the US ambassador in Wellington, said the visit helped clarify the improvement in the relationship.

He said the US and shared similar values and had much in common, from culture to tourism.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, October 18 2016. 13:32 IST