Cablegate: New Zealand Prime Minister Reiterates View That

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/25/2014

Classified By: Political and Economic Counselor,
Timothy Zuniga-Brown, FOR REASONS 1.5(B,D)

1. (SBU/NF) Summary: New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark
reiterated her position on NZ's anti-nuclear policy in
comments to local media July 25: "I'm not looking for
compromises. I'm perfectly satisfied with the policy. As
far as I am concerned, (the US-NZ nuclear dispute) is
finished business." The PM's comments were made in response
to questions posed by a respected national reporter following
backgrounders by Embassy Wellington. The resulting
well-balanced articles belied the Prime Minister's claims
that the issue is "finished business." The articles
addressed a number of issues that Post has highlighted both
publicly and privately in recent months ) the uncounted cost
of NZ's policies and the increasing irrelevance of the
legislation in a Post-Cold War security environment. The
weekend press coverage continues a welcome internal
nation-wide dialogue on the nuclear issue. End summary.

"It is finished business" - or is it?

2. (SBU) Following on series of backgrounders by Embassy
Wellington, respected Sunday Star-Times reporter Jonathan
Milne wrote a series of well-balanced articles July 25 that
addressed a number of points on the nuclear issues that Post
has highlighted both publicly and privately in recent months
) the uncounted cost of New Zealand's policies and the
increasing irrelevance of the legislation in a Post-Cold War
security environment. Milne pointed to the decision to base
U.S. Coastguard icebreakers in Hobart, Australia, the loss of
business opportunities for businesses that refit military
equipment, the loss of US training opportunities for the NZ
Defence Force and the subsequent higher price paid for
military training and hardware as evidence that the
legislation is not cost-free to NZ. He noted further that
the reputed trade and tourism benefit of NZ's vaunted
nuclear-free image has never been quantified. A second
article focused on the financial benefits accrued by
Townsville, Australia. The article noted that while
Townsville previously designated itself a "nuclear-free zone"
in the 1980s, it now welcomes American ship visits and has
added millions of dollars to its local economy as a result.

3. (SBU/NF) Prime Minister Helen Clark is quoted by Milne as
responding to his story by flatly stating "I'm not looking
for compromises. I'm perfectly satisfied with the policy.
As far as I am concerned, (the US-NZ nuclear dispute) is
finished business." Clark further stressed her view that the
US-NZ nuclear problem is increasingly "irrelevant," and
solely due to the USG's stubborn adherence to its "neither
confirm nor deny" policy. She goes on to note that the
nuclear-free legislation is an issue that "New Zealand and
America have put to the side for 20 years." Milne's
conclusion is that neither the GoNZ nor the USG are willing
to compromise further to solve the impasse created by NZ's
adoption of anti-nuclear legislation that resulted in a ban
on visits by USG military vessels to New Zealand.

4. (SBU/NF) Milne's third article, appearing under the
misleading title "US makes nukes blunder," revealed an
incident in December 2003 when the US Army landing craft USS
Great Bridge sought permission for a USD 1.4 million refit in
a New Zealand dockyard. After being reminded of the USG ban
on military ship visits, the vessel was redirected to
Australia. Milne reports that the GoNZ apparently was not
aware of any intended visit and claimed it had not been
notified by the USG of the specific incident. Milne's
article posited that the USG lost a chance to break the
20-year diplomatic stalemate, noting that PM Clark claimed it
was &highly likely8 that a request for such a refit would
have been approved once it was determined that the ship fit
NZ's anti-nuclear legislation.

COMMENT: (Un)Finished Business?

5. (C) PM Clark's comments confirm that she is not only
comfortable with her government's stance on the nuclear
dispute with the USG, but that she also firmly wishes that it
will just go away. That a leading Kiwi reporter can write a
well-balanced series of stories in one of New Zealand's
leading newspapers suggests the issue is not as "finished" as
the PM would like it to be. The series of articles continues
a surprising but welcome internal discussion among New
Zealanders that has been going on for nearly two years.
Still, the Prime Minister's statements reaffirm post's view
on the need for all US agencies to reinforce USG policy with
New Zealand government interlocutors - both civilian and

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