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Cablegate: Pm Key On Media Strategy After Military Review Briefing; His

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHWL #0081 0560514
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 250514Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0431
INFO RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON

C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000081

SIPDIS
STATE FOR EAP (A/S CAMPBELL, DAS REED), EAP/ANP
STATE PLEASE PASS TO DOD OSD (DASD SCHER, MARY BETH MORGAN)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/25
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR NZ
SUBJECT: PM Key on Media Strategy after Military Review Briefing; His
Prospective Bilateral Visit

CLASSIFIED BY: Robert J Clarke, Charge' d Affaires, State,
Wellington; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary: On February 22, the Ambassador accompanied a
Washington visitor to a " courtesy call" on Prime Minister (PM)
John Key which turned into an hour plus discussion. PM Key noted
that he (in contrast to MFAT) was not concerned about immediately
devising a "media strategy" after the recent briefing on the USG
review of bilateral military relations delivered by DAS Frankie
Reed and DASD Bob Scher. He expressed confidence that he could
handle any related questions if they came up (which they have not
in several encounters with the media that the PM has subsequently
had). Key also raised the topic of a bilateral visit to the
Washington DC in a manner that indicated how important confirming
the visit for June is to him. End Summary.

MILITARY REVIEW RESULTS--NO IMMEDIATE MEDIA STRATEGY NECESSARY

2. (C) PM Key is not worried about immediately developing a media
strategy and common press guidance on results of the U.S. review of
bilateral military relations. These results had been
confidentially briefed to the Foreign Affairs (MFAT) and Defense
ministries by DAS Reed and DASD Scher on February 18. Key said he
did not expect questions to come up about the military review until
a specific event, such as announcement of a rescheduled visit by
the Secretary, or his own trip to the United States, got reporters
focused on that long-standing topic. If he did receive questions,
Key said, he was comfortable talking in general terms about the
on-going, developing bilateral relationship and referring reporters
with any questions on the military review to U.S. authorities.
(Note and comment: Key's attitude is precisely opposite to that
of MFAT which has been arguing that a pro-active press strategy
(i.e. a US-authorized press line) is needed now. Since February
22, the PM has had several encounters with the press and no
questions on the military review came up. End note and comment.)

PM KEY STILL HOPES FOR A JUNE BILATERAL VISIT TO WASHINGTON

3. (C) PM Key also lobbied for an early decision on a pending
bilateral visit to Washington DC. He did so in a way that began
indirectly but ended by underscoring for the Ambassador the
importance to the Prime Minister of fixing a date, preferably (for
him) of June 2010. He claimed that he was not merely focused on
that aspect of US-NZ relations, and understood that President
Obama was busy, and knew that final decisions on scheduling dates
would eventually be made. However, after the circuitous lead-in,
Key explained why combining a bilateral visit with the April 2010
Nuclear Security Summit (which he will attend) would not work. He
recounted the conversations at APEC which led him to believe he
had a firm invitation from POTUS for a separate bilateral visit in
the first half of 2010 (i.e. NLT June). Key said the exchanges
resulted in him briefing the press in a certain way about the
"invitation," which he said he would not have done if he had
thought the offer were actually more casual and indefinite.
Expectations in NZ were set, Key said, and the matter potentially
could turn into a political embarrassment for him. Key noted that
his June schedule was "still empty."

4. (C) Comment: The manner in which PM Key pitched the bilateral
visit indicated to the Ambassador that nailing down a June visit is
of intense importance to Key. The Ambassador gathered from the
exchange that June is being held open by the GNZ in hopes of a
confirmation for a bilateral visit then in the near future. Key,
who has not previously raised this topic personally (leaving that
to FM McCully and MFAT) clearly hoped his explanation might result
in an early confirmation for June. End Comment.
CLARKE

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