Barack Obama hopes to visit New Zealand, maybe before his presidential term ends
US President Barack Obama hopes to visit New Zealand soon – potentially in the final two months of his presidency.
On being elected President this week, Donald Trump put the kibosh on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and climate change talks. But in good news for the NZ-US relationship, Ambassador Mark Gilbert placed a Presidential visit firmly back on the table this week, as a slew of high-powered visiting dignitaries and naval exercises showed off the closest ties in 33 years.
"The President and his family all want to come," Gilbert said. "It was just a question of when that would be a possibility. Whether he comes before he leaves office or after he leaves office, I do believe that he will come to New Zealand."
Before his term ends? "You just don't know," said Gilbert.
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Relations between New Zealand and United States are at their most pivotal point this century, with Secretary of State John Kerry touching down in New Zealand again last night, and the end of the 33-year "no nukes" chill.
The USS Sampson, a US Navy missile destroyer, is right now steaming across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu. Commander Tim LaBenz this weekend sent photos of the crew working on the deck to have the ship looking spick and span when it rounds North Head into Auckland's Waitemata Harbour on Thursday
It is expected to be met by a flotilla of both well-wishers and protesters.
The sight of Air Force One touching down would be welcomed by Prime Minister John Key, who has enjoyed a close friendship with Obama since the two played golf while holidaying in Hawaii in 2014.
But Key said this week he believed the visit would happen after Obama had departed office, and handed over the reins of the world's biggest economy to the former reality TV star, Trump. "I'm going to see him in Peru next week so I think that's probably where we'll get a chance to sit down," Key said.
He's definitely going to come to New Zealand but I think it's much more likely when he's not president."
Obama would be just the third US President to visit these shores, after Lyndon B Johnson and Bill Clinton.
Arriving back at Christchurch Airport on Saturday night, Kerry remained tight-lipped about a possible Obama arrival.
Instead, Kerry, who is due to with Key on Sunday, spoke of the "majesty and awe" of Antarctica, which he has just visited in a US Air Force Hercules.
"Let me just say what an extraordinary experience it was and how impressed I am by the remarkable commitment of so many scientists and so many involved people to learn more to be able to help guide important policy decisions," Kerry said.
"I went to the New Zealand base, Scott, and had a terrific tour, and saw them prepping to go out on the ice to do some important bores."
This will be the most important week in US-New Zealand relations in decades, with the visit of the USS Sampson for the New Zealand's 75th Naval anniversary. More than a thousand sailors from around New Zealand are to take part in the event.
On Saturday, naval ships from China, Japan, Singapore and Canada began arriving as part of the celebrations.
- Sunday Star Times