I didn’t realize the history behind New Zealand’s anti- nuclear stance and rhetoric until it was announced today that the United States was ‘lifting it’s ban’ on New Zealand vessels entering American ports. This sounds awfully backwards, as it was New Zealand in 1983 who declared itself ‘anti-nuclear,’ and rightfully, in light of the multitude of nuclear testing held in Australia and surrounding areas in the second half of the 20th century. New Zealand banned all nuclear power from their country, including nuclear powered vessels—effectively banning all western naval boats and ships. In response, the US banned all New Zealand vessels from entering its own ports. The ‘tensions’ between New Zealand and the US simmered in 2003 when New Zealand sent troops to help the allied fight in Afghanistan.
New Zealand is scheduled to soon remove its remaining troops from Afghanistan. The US move to allow New Zealand naval vessels into its ports could be a ‘thank you’ for its support of the decade long war. It could, though, be something else. Brian Rudman from the New Zealand Herald calls US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, the “Warlord of the World,” and says that this US push to soothe the relationship between the two nations is a strategic move against Chinese military and economic growth. According to Rudman, China is a huge trade partner of New Zealand and a better friend than America.
The Obama administration’s foreign policy platform, due to the recent anti-American protests and riots around the world, will benefit from this ‘olive branch extension’ –which it is on one hand—but on the other hand it’s a blatant attempt at coercion and potential show of US muscular force in the South Pacific, which may appease Obama naysayers who believe that his administration has allowed China to expand its influence uninhibited in the Pacific. Elevated tensions, however, between China and the US may await.