Editorial: Warmer relations a step forward

WARWICK RASMUSSEN
Last updated 12:00 24/09/2012
US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta tour
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax Media
US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta during a press conference at Government House in Auckland.

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OPINION: New Zealand's improving political relationship with the United States is a case of baby step by baby step.

Historically, the two nations have been firm allies, through war and trade, but it was our nuclear-free stance in the 1980s that created the largest roadblock.

Our demand that US vessels had to let us know if they had nukes onboard was seen by their administration as an affront. They didn't tell any other allies and they weren't about to start.

While we were hardly treated as an enemy, we might as well have been. We were frozen out. Diplomatic ties were strained.

It was like being invited to a birthday party, then ignored by the host.

Those tense times have eased considerably. Both countries have had several government changes and it seems as if the US is in more of bridge-building mood than they had been in the past.

They realise they need all the allies they can get around the world, and New Zealand was an easy option, despite the rocky history.

But that's exactly what it is now, history. Both countries appear to have accepted each other's positions and rather than work through them, they look like they are working around them.

The recent visit by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta was aimed at rebuilding military ties, including what has been described as the "humiliating ban" on our naval vessels going into US naval and Coastguard facilities.

It did seem like an almost peripheral matter that could have been dealt with via electronic communication, but the Americans have always been big on symbolism and sent their top man over.

Even the attire of Prime Minister John Key and Mr Panetta - no ties and denim jeans for the American - tried to give off an air of informality; as if our two countries were just two old pals catching up.

One policy shouldn't define a relationship between two countries, it should just be part of it. No two nations are the same, so there will always be differences in opinion and ideology.

The thaw is almost complete, but we shouldn't be so naive as to believe that the US just wants to be friends for no reason.

There's always a reason.

In five days, the Manawatu Turbos will take on Taranaki in New Plymouth for the Ranfurly Shield. If the men in green and white cause the upset and win, it will be the first time they have held the Log o' Wood in 34 years. Are you planning to make the trip to New Plymouth or something special on the day? Let us know by emailing editor@msl.co.nz.

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- Manawatu Standard

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