On Palmer and US Warships

Sir Geoffrey Palmer has raised two issues: whether

the return of US warship visits

to our ports is possible, and whether it is desirable.

Visits would be possible, if the US decided to drop its policy to ‘neither confirm, nor deny’ whether nuclear weapons are on board any particular ship. The US is not about to do this because of the precedent it would set in countries like Japan. Nuclear-armed ships regularly chug into Japanese ports, despite an official ban. The Japanese government simply looks the other way.

Whether it is desirable to have US warships visit New Zealand is not something to be answered with a straight yes or no. The Greens are in favour of Pacific navies – supported by surveillance aircraft – helping Pacific countries protect their fisheries from poaching. There is nothing wrong with American ships dedicated to this task visiting New Zealand ports. There might also be something New Zealand can learn from their coastguard ships.

However, I think it is good that we haven’t had any visits from big US combat ships these last 25 years. It means we are less associated with the purposes they are put – such as helping in the invasion of Iraq; or more recently being platforms from which American can launch strikes in places like Somalia or Yemen – quite contrary to international law. We benefit from not being seen as a ‘deputy sheriff’ for the US, as Australia is. While we don’t need a formal ban on such warships visiting New Zealand, it is not advisable to invite them here.

These big warships also symbolise the wrong priorities of successive US administrations. The 2010

US Defence Budget is $685 billion

, of which $171 billion is directed to the US Navy


Only a fraction of this directed towards solving the social, economic and environmental problems of the world would make a big difference.