NZ defence minister jokes about US spying
Jonathan Coleman says he's not worried about the US spying on New Zealand.PT0M0S 620 349
In an amiable press conference at the Pentagon the New Zealand Defence Minister, Jonathan Coleman, handed his American counterpart, Chuck Hagel, an All Blacks jersey and a three-decade military chill between the two nations appeared to be consigned to history.
The Secretary of Defense told reporters, "Today, I authorised a New Zealand navy ship to dock at Pearl Harbor... This will be the first time a New Zealand navy ship will have visited Pearl Harbor in more than 30 years."
In fact it will be the first since the New Zealand government refused to allow a US aircraft carrier thought to be nuclear armed to dock in its ports in 1984. The stance caused the US to suspend its treaty obligations with New Zealand and recast its relationship with New Zealand from ally to friend.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel receives a New Zealand All Blacks rugby jersey from New Zealand Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP
On Monday both men spoke of the improvements the military relationship between the two nations since they signed a memo of cooperation known as the Washington declaration.
"We've made great strides in the defence relationship over the last two years on the back of the Wellington declaration and then the Washington declaration," said Mr Coleman. "We greatly appreciate the lifting of restrictions on New Zealand ships docking in US ports. And I want to thank you for that waiver.
"We're also very pleased to see the resumption of mil-mil [military to military] talks after 30 years. And where we're getting to, really, is the resumption of a tempo of contact, whether it's at the political level, the officials level, or the mil-mil level, which we haven't seen for a number of decades."
The first signs of a strengthening in ties came after the President, Barack Obama, announced his administration's policy of refocusing its diplomatic, trade and military attention on the Asia Pacific region.
Mr Coleman said New Zealand was not concerned at the prospect that the US might be spying on it, as it has been upon other friends and allies according to recent reports.
"New Zealand's not worried at all about this. We don't believe it would be occurring.
"And, look, quite frankly, there'd be nothing that anyone could hear in our private conversations that we wouldn't be prepared to share publicly. And a cartoon in our local paper in our capital, Wellington, showed an analyst potentially listening to the communiques from New Zealand and a big stream of "ZZZs" coming out."
Mr Hagel agreed that the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration introduced due to a failure by Congress to agree on a budget had a damaging impact on the rebalance towards Asia and the Pacific, but he said the policy remained a key priority for the Department of Defense and the administration more broadly.
"The reality is, when you take the kind of cuts that the Pentagon has been taking this year, and if we continue to take those kind of cuts over $US50 billion on track for next year, it affects us in every way," he said.
"But, again, prioritisation of the Asia Pacific rebalance is at the top of the list, as well as cyber and other interests that are clearly in the interest of our country and our future."