Armstrong on ship visits

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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