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Labour-Alliance Govt Thwarted US Coastguard Visits

22 March 2002

Reports that the United States may offer restoration of US coastguard ship visits will be a development welcomed by the National Party, if the Government can secure it, National's Defence Spokesperson Max Bradford said today.

"This step would still be less than what the last National Government achieved in 1999.

"New Zealand's substantial commitment to the East Timor peacekeeping operation and the contracts for leasing the F16s strengthened the relationship between the United States and New Zealand significantly, which was confirmed during President Clinton's visit to New Zealand in 1999, and the first meetings between a NZ Defence Minister and the US Secretary of Defence in 1998 and 1999.

"The relationship had improved to the point that the US did invite the New Zealand's defence force to exercise and train with US defence forces preparing for, and involved in, peacekeeping or coalition operations. President Clinton also supported the restoration of US Coastguard vessel visits to New Zealand ports. "All this progress and bridge-building was undone when the Labour-Alliance Government cancelled the F16 contract, setting back the very positive developments in 1998-99 by National.

"Should the United States agree to restore US coastguard ship visits it simply means that the Labour-Alliance Government has lost two years and we are still behind where we were in 1999. Nevertheless, small steps forward are better than none at all," Mr Bradford said.

Ends

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