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Goff at sea on US nuclear ship visits, say Greens

24 April 2006

Goff at sea on US nuclear ship visits, say Greens

"It is wishful thinking for Defence Minister Phil Goff to maintain that since American ships no longer carry nuclear weapons, this factor was, quote "no longer an issue, or an obstacle" to them docking at New Zealand ports," Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"If Phil has been told something new by Donald Rumsfeld, and the US are truly willing these days to show and tell whether particular ships are nuclear-armed, then New Zealanders should be told all about it.

"In fact, the Americans continue to operate a 'neither confirm nor deny' policy about the presence of nuclear weapons on their ships."

"I refer Mr Goff to, for instance, the 6 November 2003 statement by Commander W. Scott Gureck, Fleet Public Affairs Officer, US Seventh Fleet, who explained : 'It is general US policy not to deploy nuclear weapons aboard surface ships, attack submarines and naval aircraft. However, we do not discuss the presence or absence of nuclear weapons aboard specified ships, submarines, or aircraft.'

"This is the old 'neither confirm nor deny' policy, virtually unchanged. We can find no later statement that contradicts it. This policy would apply to any particular ship or submarine seeking permission to dock at a New Zealand port, regardless of the general deployment policy," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"The Green Party agrees with Mr Goff that it is time for a common-sense approach to the dispute.

"However, such an approach cannot be expected to materialise out of thin air. It will have to be based on the US respecting the massive support that exists in New Zealand for the anti-nuclear legislation.

"The US should also recognise the contribution that New Zealand continues to make to UN peace-keeping and within the war on terrorism.

"The Greens do not believe the only way forward is for New Zealand to change its legislation. It would be quite possible for the US to provide an assurance that any particular warship would not be carrying nuclear weapons, and then allow the New Zealand government to decide whether port access would be allowed for that ship."

ENDS

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