US mulls over navy ship visit to NZ

  • 28/11/2015
US ambassador to New Zealand, Mark Gilbert
US ambassador to New Zealand, Mark Gilbert

Relations between the US and New Zealand are the best they've ever been but the US is still mulling over an invitation to send a Navy ship to visit, says the US ambassador to New Zealand, Mark Gilbert.

New Zealand's navy is marking its 75th anniversary in 2016 and the US Navy has been invited to attend, potentially ending a 33-year hiatus of visits due to New Zealand's nuclear-free policy.

Mr Gilbert, 59, says the invitation is being considered "at high levels" of government in the US.

He told The Nation today the US had had a neither confirm nor deny policy on the nuclear status of its ships for years and New Zealand had never asked the US "to do that".

"A decision has not been made whether we are going to be able to send a ship or not. We will always stay with our neither confirm nor deny policy," he said.

He said the relationship between New Zealand and the US had grown.

"It may even be at the best place that it has ever been," he said.

"And, I think that's what is really important," he said.

No US Navy ship has visited New Zealand since the nuclear-powered USS Texas in 1983.

New Zealand, after a law change to make the country nuclear free, then blocked the 1985 visit by the USS Buchanan because the US wouldn't reveal its status.

Prime Minister John Key has said New Zealand was not changing its nuclear-free laws.

However, he indicated he would not be directly asking the US about the nuclear status of any ship it might decide to send.

Mr Gilbert is a former outfielder in Major League Baseball.