Ban of New Zealand warships seen as snub - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Ban of New Zealand warships seen as snub

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Blame differences over nuclear policy for the U.S. prohibiting the New Zealand frigate Te Kaha and tanker Endeavour from anchoring with RIMPAC's 40 other ships at Pearl Harbor. The vessels are docked at Aloha Tower.

"What are we here for? We're here for RIMPAC. And they're trying to dog us for being nuclear free," said Joe Tuala of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

New Zealand's media is having a field day with the controversy.

One political commentator called it "petty, petulant, and pathetic," designed to punish and humiliate that country.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is trying to kill the controversy

"He has said it's not a snub, but it's hard to see it as anything but. It is not ideal for the image he's trying to build and the friendship that he wants us to see as growing between New Zealand and the U.S." said Michael Parkin, political reporter with Television New Zealand One News.

RIMPAC public affairs officer Cmdr. Charlie Brown said the feedback from the Royal New Zealand Navy proves "they are very satisfied with these arrangements." He said their participation shows strong cooperation between the countries.

New Zealand sailor Shayna Keenan agrees.

"I'm grateful," she said. "I thank God to be blessed with parking us at Aloha Tower. It's awesome."

Some U.S. vessels carry nuclear weapons, so the ban goes both ways.

"We're not about to let our nuclear free stance slip away," Parkin said. "American ships aren't welcome into our harbors either."

A total of 350 New Zealand military members will participate in RIMPAC, including an operational diving team, a mine counter-measures team and a rifle platoon.

Tuala said the controversy back home is unsettling, but here it's nothing more than a distraction.

"No bad blood at all. Hold no grudges," he said.

It has been 28 years since New Zealand participated in the maritime exercise. Welcome back to RIMPAC.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved

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