The United States and New Zealand have signed a pact aimed at expanding defense relations between the two countries and promoting a common vision for defense cooperation.
The bilateral agreement, titled the "Washington Declaration," was signed by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his New Zealand counterpart Jonathan Coleman at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
According to a Pentagon statement, the declaration provides for a framework for cooperation to focus, strengthen and expand bilateral defense relations. It also promotes a common vision for defense cooperation in order to strengthen and expand practical bilateral cooperation.
Further, the "Washington Declaration" opens up defense dialogues that include exchange of information and strategic perspectives and increase understanding of defense policies.
The Pentagon said the Declaration "reflects a shared commitment to a stable and peaceful Asia-Pacific region and common approaches to address the region's defense and security issues, including contemporary non-traditional security challenges."
The partnership outlined by the Declaration will also include cooperation in areas such as maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and peacekeeping support operations. The document was signed a week after commemorative events took place in cities across New Zealand to celebrate the 70th anniversary of U.S. forces coming to the aid of New Zealand in World War II.
Coleman said after signing the agreement that it would build on existing "significant security co-operation" between the two "within the context of our independent foreign policy."
The tie-up marks an important step in advancing U.S.-New Zealand relations. It followed a similar pact signed by the two nations in November 2010, committing themselves to regular Foreign Ministry, trade and military talks.
The 2010 pact was instrumental in repairing ties between the two nations, which were damaged 27 years ago after New Zealand refused permission to U.S. nuclear-armed ships to dock at its ports.
Incidentally, New Zealand has barred nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered ships from visiting its ports since 1985. The ban was extended to U.S. naval ships as Washington traditionally refuses to clarify whether its naval vessels are nuclear-powered or not. That ban is expected to continue as Washington's policy on the issue remains unchanged.
by RTT Staff Writer
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