US, New Zealand sign strategic deal after nuclear row

image captionMr McCully called the pact "a very important page in the history of US-New Zealand relations"

New Zealand and the US have signed a strategic co-operation document to restore relations after a 25-year row.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully signed the Wellington Declaration at parliament.

It commits the two countries to regular foreign ministry, trade and military talks.

Military ties were damaged 25 years ago when New Zealand refused to allow US nuclear-armed ships to dock.

New Zealand has banned nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered ships visiting its ports since 1985.

The US traditionally refuses to say whether its ships are nuclear-powered or not, so New Zealand has refused entry to all of them.

New alliance

Mrs Clinton said the agreement provides for closer co-operation on promoting economic development and democracy in the region.

It also means greater co-operation on security, developing clean energy, responding to natural disasters and "emphasises the need to seek ideas from women, minorities and young leaders," she said.

"This Wellington Declaration makes it clear that we want to co-operate across the board in every aspect of our civilian efforts and our military as well," she said.

The conservative government in New Zealand described the declaration as a new start.

"We welcome the formal agreement to regular contact and a wider range of exchanges," Mr McCully said.

"In my view, we have turned a very important page in the history of US-New Zealand relations," he said.

The nuclear ban has been held in place by successive left of centre Labour Party governments under former prime ministers David Lange and Helen Clark.

The nuclear ban led to New Zealand effectively being dropped from the Anzus alliance which was formed to link the US, Australia and New Zealand as close military allies, engaging in joint military exercises.

It also held up the signing of a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the US.

During her visit to New Zealand, Mrs Clinton earlier met Prime Minister John Key and performed the traditional Maori greeting.

She is also expected to visit Christchurch, the southern island city badly hit by a series of recent earthquakes.

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