US will 'refuse to confirm or deny' if nukes on ship visiting NZ

US ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa Mark Gilbert (Getty)
US ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa Mark Gilbert (Getty)

The United States Government says it will "refuse to confirm or deny" if a Navy ship is carrying nuclear weapons, should it send a vessel to New Zealand later this year.

Mark Gilbert, the US ambassador to New Zealand, told Newshub the policy would not be relaxed if it sends a ship to the Navy’s 75th anniversary in November.

US will 'refuse to confirm or deny' if nukes on ship visiting NZ

"It will not. It is a policy we have had for many decades, it is a policy we will strictly stick to," Mr Gilbert said.

A US decision on whether to accept New Zealand's invitation is imminent.

The issue is an incredibly tricky diplomatic one as New Zealand's nuclear-free laws means the Prime Minister needs to be assured that ships do not carry weapons.

For over 30 years, the American "neither confirm or deny" policy has caused a stalemate -- but John Key is now prepared to let the policy stand and just accept the advice of his Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials as to whether the ship has weapons.

"I have to sign a waiver, for which I get from Foreign Affairs to say they meet our New Zealand anti-nuclear law -- in other words, it is neither nuclear-powered or carries nuclear arms," Mr Key told Paul Henry this morning. "How they decide that I don't know, but they'll have a way of going through it."

Translation: the ship will certainly not be carrying nuclear weapons, that will be obvious, but New Zealand will not kick up stink over the "confirm or deny" policy so the US can save face. In short, the ANZUS row is over, and this ship visit will be the ultimate symbol of that.

US will 'refuse to confirm or deny' if nukes on ship visiting NZ

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