NZ, US break military training impasse

The Defence Force is to take part in two exercises with the United States for the first time in almost 30 years.

The Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) is hosted by the US and will be the world's largest international maritime exercise.

It will take place near Hawaii next month and will be the first time in 28 years New Zealand will participate.

It involves 22 countries, a total of 25,000 personnel, 42 ships, six submarines, and over 200 aircraft.

New Zealand will send the frigates Te Kaha and Endeavour, a diving team, an anti-mine team, an army rifle platoon from the infantry regiment, a P-3K Orion and staff from Defence headquarters will take part in the exercise next month.

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Dave Gawn, said it will give the Defence Force a chance to work alongside a number of Pacific nations and build relationships with their military.

"Participation in exercises like RIMPAC also enables the Defence Force to prepare for a variety of contingencies to ensure that New Zealand can play its part effectively in working with other nations to reduce conflict and improve stability in the Pacific and around the world."

Other nations taking part include the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Peru, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, India, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, Russia and Tonga.

Major General Gawn said developing New Zealand's amphibious capability is important for the Defence Force as it moves towards being a joint amphibious task force, where all three services work as one force.

In a separate exercise, 35 engineers from Linton and one medic will next month go to Camp Pendleton in California.

It is 30 years since New Zealand troops have been on US soil.

Also next month 50 US Marine specialists and a marine band will be in New Zealand next month to celebrate 70 years since the marines came here to training during World War Two.

Last week US troops took part in an exercise in Waiouru.

The defence relationship with the US continues to strengthen following the signing of the Wellington Declaration between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully in 2010.

Military relations with the US froze in 1985 when New Zealand became nuclear free and refused to allow nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed American ships from using New Zealand ports or entering New Zealand waters.