Armstrong on ship visits

April 15th, 2010 at 6:55 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

Still waters run deep when it comes to the public’s attachment to New Zealand’s policy. Just how deep could be plumbed by this week’s misinterpretation – deliberate in some instances – of a few innocuous remarks by Sir about the desirability of an American naval vessel soon visiting a New Zealand port. …

Sir Geoffrey’s statement that a port visit would be “desirable” was rapidly translated on both sides of the political fence as him arguing for a change in the anti-nuclear law.

I never thought it meant that.

He was certainly not advocating any change to the anti-nuclear policy. He doesn’t need to do so. Whether the Americans send ships here is purely a matter of their choosing. That has been the case for the past 19 years.

In 1991, the US removed all nuclear weapons from its surface naval vessels, confining such firepower to ballistic nuclear missiles on its nuclear-powered submarines. Along with those submarines, other surface vessels – principally aircraft carriers – were still shut out by New Zealand’s tandem ban on nuclear-powered vessels.

The upshot was that all the Prime Minister had to do to determine if a ship could enter New Zealand’s coastal waters was to consult Jane’s Fighting Ships, the reference bible on the world’s navies.

The point I made yesterday.

What is really at stake here, however, is the mending of the extensive military ties between Washington and Wellington which existed before the bust-up of Anzus in the 1980s.

The restoration of such links is hotly opposed in some political quarters. The easiest way to try to stop that happening is to scare the public into thinking the anti-nuclear policy is under threat. Sir Geoffrey unwittingly provided the platform for others to do that.

In other words a bout of scare-mongering.

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24 Responses to “Armstrong on ship visits”

  1. jcuknz (704 comments) says:

    American ships have not visited so far not becuase of our regulations but becuase the stupid american admirals won’t say that the vessels are not nuclear fueled or weaponed. They are not but the americans refuse to admit that … idiots!

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  2. tom hunter (5,078 comments) says:

    The upshot was that all the Prime Minister had to do to determine if a ship could enter New Zealand’s coastal waters was to consult Jane’s Fighting Ships, the reference bible on the world’s navies.

    Indeed. But as I pointed out on the Palmer thread, the sticking point is that any such decision falls under the category of failing to prove a negative:

    …That fits my understanding too – but it seems pointless if the NZ Government subject to the legislation cannot decide that a US ship does not have nuclear weapons because the people running the ship will neither confirm nor deny that they have. The standing invitation is obviated by that argument, which was Lange’s argument, and which I have not heard refuted.

    I asked Paul Buchanan to weigh in on this point and he did so:

    Yet until the very last year of the W. Bush administration, the official NZ govt stance was that the USN had to publicly answer the “yes or no” question and the US stance was that it would not (other than to neither confirm or deny). After Condi Rice’s “bump in the road” speech, the path was cleared for a more pragmatic approach to the issue of port visits, which in light of Obama’s clear commitment to denuclearisation and non-proliferation, seems to lead nicely to the potential application of point 1 in order to allow point 2.

    If it was as simple as reading the legislation Lange and Labour in ‘84/’85 could have made the same decision then: nobody seriously thought the USS Buchanan was carrrying nukes. The neither confirm nor deny policy was simply the excuse needed for sticking it to Reagan and co. Key members of Lange’s party (e.g. Margaret Wilson!) clearly did not agree with his take – and they certainly used the existence of the neither confirm nor deny policy to get their way, legislation or no.

    What is really at stake here, however, is the mending of the extensive military ties between Washington and Wellington.

    Yes. While it may still be an excuse for scare-mongering, the real point is that the ‘scare’ is less around nuclear materials than about us coming into closer contact with those carriers of the diseases of imperialism and militarism – Americans – and it always was.

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  3. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    There is NOTHING in our legislation that prevents ship visits.

    The only thing that prevents ship visits is the attitude of the government. I would point out that we have had Chinese warships in our captials harbour – in fact they laned armed sailors in violation of numerous laws, but thats another issue.

    The Chinese made no statutory declaration before entering our waters and no one so much as whimpered.

    Yet you all keep talking about anti-nuke policy and US warships. Why? We have allowed our government to convince us that anti-nuke laws prevent AMERICAN ship visits. This is a load of crap. Either we get no vists or anyone can visit.

    What is run deep when it comes to the public’s attachment is New Zealand’s anti-American attitudes. America is evil and we must shit on them whenever possible. David Lange made himself the unltimate victim by contriving a confrontation with an ALLY that he knew would take no action against us. If you want to claim he was making a moral stand then I would ask where the hell was that “moral stand” when France offered to fuck us up with European trade if we didn’t hand over the French states terrorists? I direct you David Lange assuring us they WOULD be serving their time in a New Zealand jail.

    If you want to know what an actuall friend looks like then go down to the Wellington water front and look out for two memorial plaques. We didn’t put them there, the Marines did. We were too busy shitting on them. New zealand, the western worlds shittiest ally.

    We have no “anti-nuke” policy, we have an anti-American policy.

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  4. Lipo (229 comments) says:

    The whole issue was not really about Nukes but more about Anti-American hysteria. It was an issue that backward and inbred New Zealanders could puff out their chest, have a wack at a global power, and feel better about themselves. That was all it was. A feel good factor for people who have chips on their shoulders.
    New Zealanders and them media here seem hell bent on trying to prove something to other countries that don’t really give a shit.
    I guess it makes a few more people happier at the end of the day.

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  5. Andrew W (1,629 comments) says:

    Tom, I don’t think the legislation forced Lange to reject the Buchanan visit, it was more the politics of the time, and ultimately it was his decision.
    Different times and a different PM could mean a different decision. Absence of nukes doesn’t have to be proved under the legislation.

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  6. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    The point he used Andrew wasa full discolsure requirement that was not in the legislation. No military in the world is going to tell you what they are carrying and how they are powered. As the US had already undertaken to abide by the laws it was also entirely unneeded.

    It was a contrived confrontation in order for Fat Dave to get some popularity because a lot of people in his own party didn’t like. You might recall that Helen Clark said she didn’t vote for him… untill he died the enxt week then suddenly she couldn’t remember who she voted for and used the hysteria of his death to sneak in a win on the following election.

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  7. tom hunter (5,078 comments) says:

    Andrew

    I thought I’d made it clear the other day that I agree with you on that point entirely. In fact I thought that was the point I had made – repeatedly. It is nothing to do with the legislation. It never was.

    But that never was the point. As you say it was the politics of the day.

    It’s just that I would say that the ‘politics of the day’ – circa mid-1980’s – still applies within NZ. I would not bet on Key breaking the deadlock any more than Bolger would, especially as the screams of ‘principled’ groups are amplified.

    In the face of that, Key will likely regard this as a poor trade that should be passed over in favour of more profitable ones.

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  8. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    @Murray 8:19. Great comment. Totally agree

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  9. Andrew W (1,629 comments) says:

    We’re probably starting to split hairs a bit, but I don’t recall Lange demanding disclosure as such, more “if you can’t tell me if there are nukes I’ll have to make a decision on the basis of what I know, I know the ship is nuclear capable.”

    Sorry Tom, I’m a bit slow today.

    Looks like we agree the legislation itself doesn’t stop US ship visits. Yay!

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  10. slightlyrighty (2,475 comments) says:

    I think there is an anti military feeling amongst a certain cadre of people in NZ. Much of that is from people who are also anti-american.

    While in the NZ Navy I remember having to be on alert on a port visit in WELLINGTON. A sister ship had grafitti painted all down one side.

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  11. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    ” We have no “anti-nuke” policy, we have an anti-American policy. ”

    And we had to wait until the left elected their own anti American as President before any change in the relationship was possible.

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  12. RRM (10,001 comments) says:

    [Murray]:We have no “anti-nuke” policy, we have an anti-American policy.[/quote]

    ALL HANDS, ALL HANDS: BULLSHIT DETECTED IN SECTOR TWELVE!

    Even the most rudimentary bit of research can tell you there is nothing nuclear about the 2x Chinese ships you are talking about:

    http://www.nzdf.mil.nz/news/media-releases/20071008-cnstvw.htm
    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/luhu-pics.htm
    http://www.sinodefence.com/navy/surface/type052_luhu.asp
    http://www.sinodefence.com/navy/support/fuqing.asp

    That big funnel on top with diesel exhaust coming out of it is your other clue.

    But be my guest and continue to wank on about imaginary lefties who hate America, maybe this is cathartic for you?

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  13. Bevan (3,924 comments) says:

    Even the most rudimentary bit of research can tell you there is nothing nuclear about the 2x Chinese ships you are talking about:

    Did we make them confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons on their vessels?

    That big funnel on top with diesel exhaust coming out of it is your other clue.

    You make it sound like nuclear power was the original problem – thats either ignorant, or you are deliberately making the issue seem smaller that it originally was.

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  14. RRM (10,001 comments) says:

    ^^^ WTF??

    We don’t allow nuclear armed ships, or nuclear powered ships. It’s quite straightforward.

    You won’t find nuclear heads on anti-aircraft missiles or anti-ship missiles.You might consider actually reading those articles.

    And of course it’s a louder and more visible issue when American ships are discussed; American ships were the catalyst for the ban, and many New Zealanders remember that well. This is not the same as saying there is an Anti-American attitude. (Or maybe it is, in the black & white world of Kiwiblog??)

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  15. MikeMan (173 comments) says:

    You won’t find nuclear heads on anti-aircraft missiles or anti-ship missiles.You might consider actually reading those articles.

    Nuclear SAM’s are not current but they used to be, the Standard range of missiles were/are nuclear capable.

    As for Nuclear armed ASM’s, when this policy was enacted most US ships were carrying nuclear armed Tomahawk ASM’s and the Russian SS-N-14 and SS-N-22 are both nuclear capable.

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  16. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    RRM bullshit right back at you. ANYTHING can carry nukes from a surfboard up. If you want to take a unit description from an online source as being definitive then you have no objection to US warships entering with making any further public statments beyond their governments undertaking to abide by our laws. Well?

    The issues reamins disclosure. Regardless of Andrews personal recolections I can assue you the issue was and remains the demands made on the US and no other navy of full discolsure.

    If thats not the case andrew exlapin the Chinese naveys presence and the lack of any US ships.

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  17. RRM (10,001 comments) says:

    ^^^ Correct Murray I think the same approach should apply to U.S. ships also. Whether it be asking the owners, OR figuring it out based on best published information, as long as there is one standard for all visiting Navies.

    But before crying there’s a double standard, are we certain that clarification WASN’T sought and received from China? or are we just presuming this?

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  18. niggly (831 comments) says:

    It’s always a pleasure to read John Armstrong’s articles (younger wannabe journos should take heed)! He understands the issues he writes about (rather than shooting his mouth off) and is experienced enough to remember past events and people (or at least knows where to dig up the archival material I suppose etc).

    As DPF mentioned yesterday, here’s the link to the relevant legislation.
    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1987/0086/latest/whole.html#dlm115145
    In regards to warship visits, see pts 9 and 11 etc.

    As long as it’s not a nuke powered Aircraft Carrier or nuke powered Sub (or a strategic nuke missile sub, of which wouldn’t come here anyway as they like to remain hidden away for obvious reasons), then the remaining USN surface fleet can visit, in light of nuke weapons being removed back in 1991 etc.

    I think people (not necessarily those commenting here on Kiwiblog today) nowadays need to move on from the infighting of the 80’s within Labour, which was a factor in the NZ/US nuclear “confrontation” issue at the time. Times, people and attitudes have changed.

    Whilst I’d personally welcome a visit from a US warship tomorrow (it would have to be non-nuc powered, seeing we still have the legislation in place, although personally I am not afraid of US nuc-powered or nuc-armed warships), I think the realpolitik of the situation is there is no real urgency for this to happen whilst NZ and US work through its “positives” in its relationship, and mainly because it appears to me, alas as in back in the 80’s and now today, it seems NZ is linked somewhat with Japan and their anti-nuc principles, therefore if the US resumed full port visits tomorrow, the (new) Japanese Govt could perhaps wind back their defence relationship with the US. I could be wrong on the latter here, but if I am right, whilst some in the Left (perhaps more the Keith Lockes more than the pragmatic Left) might like to see a reduced US presence in Japan/SE Asia, the reality is such a move would allow other non-democratic nations to become more assertive, the result being instability and then deaths of innocents (or limited war in SE Asia). At the end of the day we don’t wish to see unstability (and the resulting deaths) thus it’s in NZ’s interests not to inadvertantly upset the US/Japan defence dynamic. I’d welcome those with a better grasp of the issue to correct me on this or advise or expand etc.

    Sure, invite the USN back to NZ. Whilst warships would be acceptable (as are Chinese, UK and French etc), a low key approach would be just as acceptable in the interim (eg US Coast Guard, USN support vessels or perhaps even an old FFG7 Escort Frigate – the same as the Aussie FFG7’s). But frankly I don’t any NZ Govt (Nat or Labour) and the US (cos of Japan) see this as a priority for “tomorrow” etc.

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  19. niggly (831 comments) says:

    I understand the Standard (dual anti-air and anti-shipping) missile launchers on the USN’s FFG7 (Oliver Hazard Perry Class) Escort Frigates were also removed years ago, which means they are not nuclear capable (if they ever were in the first place).

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  20. MikeMan (173 comments) says:

    I understand the Standard (dual anti-air and anti-shipping) missile launchers on the USN’s FFG7 (Oliver Hazard Perry Class) Escort Frigates were also removed years ago, which means they are not nuclear capable (if they ever were in the first place).

    Nope the ASROC launcher is also nuclear capable as the ASROC missile can carry a W44 nuclear device.

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  21. GPT1 (2,122 comments) says:

    A visit by a US warship will be a true test of the peace movement. Are they simply anti-American or are they motivated by pece? Now we all know the answer to that – Minto and his mates will be out protesting and making dicks of themselves and no doubt cmaking outrageous claims about the nuclear capability of the ships. That will be same peace movement that has quite happily let ships from other nuclear states (France and Britain particularly but possibly China – can anyone confirm that ?) have unmolested port visits.

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  22. Stuart Mackey (337 comments) says:

    Bevan (2072) Says:
    April 15th, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Did we make them confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons on their vessels?”
    ***************************

    Has anybody ever asked? just because the government did not put out a press release about it does not mean it didn’t happen.
    For those who think that those Chinese ships never got the confirm or deny question, do you have evidence that the question was not asked?

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  23. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    Anti-nuclear snooze. Another sad little embarrassment from a Labour administration. RRM’s bedwetting ITT pretty much proves Murray @8.19am’s hypothesis.

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