Key to meet Kerry: Nuclear and Iraq on agenda

Last updated 14:02 19/06/2014
John Kerry stand
United States Secretary of State John Kerry

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Prime Minister John Key has kicked off the Washington leg of his United States trip by joining Secretary of State John Kerry at a function at the New Zealand embassy.

Iraq will be high on the agenda when the pair meet again tomorrow for more formal talks.

But one of the issues on Kerry's agenda when he spoke to the gathering of Pacific leaders was a topic that used to be a thorn in the side of New Zealand-US relations - nuclear power.

New Zealand's refusal to distinguish between nuclear powered warships and those carrying nuclear weapons was at the heart of the decades-old Anzus bustup and freeze on US-NZ relations till the early 2000s.

But Kerry was less interested in that dispute than in the benefits of nuclear power in the future - using a wide-ranging speech addressing climate change and ocean depletion to press the advantages of nuclear energy.

Ignoring the traditional sensitivities on the issue, Kerry warned that nuclear energy was an inevitable response to the world's climate change and pollution problems.

"Some people say 'God, perish the thought because of what happened in Japan'."

Nuclear just shouldn't be built on an earthquake fault right next to the ocean, Kerry said.

"[The United States navy] hasn't lost one sailor in more than 70 years of the use of nuclear power, or had one accident on a ship."

The US administration announced plans this week to clean up the oceans at a conference, which was attended by New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully.

In a taped video message, President Barack Obama announced plans to create the largest ocean preserve in a massive stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Key has a full round of meetings in Washington overnight (NZ time) including talks at the Pentagon with US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, and a meeting at the US Federal Reserve.

But the main event on his calendar in Washington is a meeting with US President Barack Obama on Saturday morning.

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