At the beginning of this month there was a really interesting incident in NZ-US relations in Hawaii.
The Riverman has a really good post explaining the history of this disagreement.
In 1985*, citing its nuclear-free policy, New Zealand denied port access to the American destroyer Buchanan because the Navy would neither confirm nor deny that the ship was nuclear armed.
In response, the US banned all NZ military vessels from its ports and “ended most bilateral activites”. So the US doesn’t respect NZ’s anti-nuclear policies and basically threw its toys. Now, almost three decades later the Japanese who directly attacked Pearl Harbour in the Second World War and the Russians, also enemies of the US during the Cold War, are welcomed into Pearl Harbour. The Kiwis, allies of the US in two World Wars, having served in the US’s war in Afghanistan, currently taking a “how high?” attitude in regard to the (NZ resident) Kim Dotcom case and continually striving for ever-closer trade agreements with the US, are banned.
Like a slightly incredulous article on Celsias points out, apparently worse than bombing and attacking them, the US cannot forgive a country who holds a different opinion to theirs on nuclear weapons.
apparently it takes a lot more than that to ever make up for expressing your own views in the foreign policy area on nuclear weapons.
Although according to Riverman, altogether 22 nations, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are taking part in RIMPAC 2012, New Zealand is the only country not allowed to dock in Pearl Harbour. As Riverman puts it, it is
A case of the Kiwis having their meals in the kitchen, not out in the dining room with the Ruskies and others.
True, apparently US military ships aren’t allowed to enter NZ ports either, but this is because they refuse to say whether or not they carry nuclear weapons, which is against our “policy” (read beliefs, ethics) as a nation. A One News article reports Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman as saying
New Zealand was not prepared to change its policy and so had not expected the US to change its policy.
I think that’s really big of NZ, because I feel that we really have a right to refuse access to ships carrying nuclear material into our own country, whereas the US is just kind of sulking.
Now I don’t feel too strongly in favour of the military in principle, but I do like seeing reports of the NZ military taking peacekeeping or reconstruction roles in conflicts. It seems weird caring so much about what is essentially military politics but I think the anti-nuclear issue goes close to the heart of who NZ is, or at least who I want us to be. Tracy Watkins reminds us that
It was US bullying that hardened New Zealand attitudes over the nuclear-free legislation in the first place, after all. Kiwis instinctively rebelled against the notion the US could tell them what to do.
In a strange way I feel a kind of perverse pride at our ships being excluded from Pearl Harbour. Yeah, that’s right – New Zealand! Nuclear Free! It’s what the people of NZ fought for the ’70s and 80’s and what we continue to believe in.
That’s not to say that we can rest on our laurels. We cannot depend on prime minister John “I’d-do-anything-for-money” Key and his cabinet to uphold this important part of our national identity. As a recent article in the Dominion Post points out it takes continual dedication to remain a world leader in disarmament and arms control and to maintain our anti-nuclear credentials. The article describes how last year the separate portfolio of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control was discarded by the government after the retirement of the last minister Georgina te Heuheu.
The move to disestablish the disarmament minister is inconsistent with the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act of 1987, which promotes and encourages our “active and effective contribution to the essential process of disarmament and international arms control”.
Who knew? No one, really. These days as a country our “green” policies are being threatened and overruled at such a rate by a government obsessed with economic growth at the cost of almost all else, particularly social and environmental policy, that it’s hard to keep up with it all. We should probably be more up-in-(no)arms like we used to be.
Please don’t judge us by our pathetic, grovelling prime minister. You want to be on the side that condones nuclear warfare? That’s your issue. But I’m proud to be on the side that’s snubbed by a global superpower for wanting peace.
All I can say is:
[*Note that 1985 was the same year that the French government blew up the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour for its continuous protests against their nuclear testing in the Pacific.]