The United States and New Zealand today announced a resumption of military-to-military contacts as part of expanded defense cooperation that will see the first visit by a New Zealand naval vessel to an American port in more than three decades.
The announcement followed a meeting at the Pentagon between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his New Zealand counterpart, Jonathan Coleman.
Hagel told reporters significant progress had been made in the defense relationship since both countries signed a declaration last year setting out expanded cooperation. The enhanced ties will include the first joint defense policy talks in almost 30 years.
"We look forward to continuing to deepen our defense cooperation in the future," Hagel said during a Pentagon news conference, with Coleman alongside. "Near-term steps include military-to-military talks next month in Honolulu, New Zealandís deployment of a frigate to the multinational antipiracy coalition in the Gulf of Aden, and the United Statesí upcoming participation in what will be New Zealandís largest ever multinational and interagency exercise."
In a gradual easing of a policy that had been in place since 1984, Hagel authorized the New Zealand navy to dock at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, during next yearís RIMPAC military exercises.
"This will be the first time a New Zealand navy ship will have visited Pearl Harbor in more than 30 years," Hagel said, calling it "another act in strengthening our relationship and the rebalance to the Pacific."
The policy restricting visits by New Zealand warships to American ports has been in place since 1984 when the ANZUS Treaty between the United States, Australia and New Zealand was partially suspended because of New Zealandís opposition to nuclear armed or powered US warships visiting its ports. During a visit to New Zealand last year, then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced an easing of restrictions on visits by New Zealand naval vessels to Defense Department and Coast Guard facilities on a case-by-case basis.
Coleman told reporters New Zealand is looking for areas where it can expand defense cooperation with the United States.
"Weíve made great strides in the defense relationship over the last two years," he said, adding appreciation for the lifting of restrictions on New Zealand ships docking in US ports. New Zealandís defense minister also said he is pleased to see the resumption of military-to-military talks after a 30-year break.
During the news conference, Hagel also said he expects the ongoing budget sequester, which he said will reduce Pentagon spending by more than $50 billion if it continues next year, to have an impact on the militaryís pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region.
"Continued sequestration cuts will affect all of our plans in all areas," he said, but he stressed that the rebalance to the region remains a priority.
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