A U.S. naval warship will visit New Zealand later this year, ending a three-decade-old stalemate over the South Pacific nation's nuclear-free policy.
Prime Minister John Key announced Thursday during a joint press conference with visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that Washington had accepted an invitation to participate in November's celebration of the Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th anniversary.
An American naval vessel has not docked at a New Zealand port since the mid-1980s, when the country's nuclear-free policy went into effect. Since the United States neither confirms nor denies whether its ships are nuclear-powered or carrying nuclear weapons, all its naval vessels have been effectively banned from New Zealand waters.
Both the U.S. and Australia considered New Zealand's policy a breach of the three-way ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States) defense cooperation treaty, and Washington suspended its ANZUS obligations to New Zealand in 1986.
Despite the rift, the two countries have maintained close diplomatic ties, and New Zealand has supported U.S.-led military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Biden says the invitation is "yet another expression of our close and cooperative relationship."
The law requires Prime Minister Key to be satisfied that a foreign country's naval vessel is nuclear free before he approves it to visit.