US-New Zealand Warming Trend Leaves Wellington's Antinuclear Policy Intact

NEW ZEALAND will not be changing its antinuclear policy in the wake of last week's resumption of dialogue with the United States. ``It is not going to alter. It is written in stone,'' Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer told reporters in Wellington this week.

Last week, US Secretary of State James Baker III met with his New Zealand counterpart, Mike Moore, in the first ministerial level talks since 1986. The rift between the two allies developed in 1985 when former Prime Minister David Lange banned nuclear-powered or nuclear-weapons-carrying ships from New Zealand ports. The US responded by cutting New Zealand out of the Australian-New Zealand-US (ANZUS) defense alliance. It suspended military training, intelligence ties, and forbad contact between high-level defense and state department officials.

The defense restrictions remain. But Mr. Baker told Congress last week, ``I do not think that it makes good sense to continue a ban on high-level contacts on matters other than military or intelligence.''

Mr. Palmer credits the rapprochement to a change of personalities in both countries' governments and to recent global strategic changes.

Australian officials welcomed the new US position.

In New Zealand, the antinuclear policy enjoys wide support. It's a Labor Party cornerstone. And the conservative National Party has moved close to the antinuclear position. But some analysts see the US move now as providing an opening for the National Party to restore ANZUS if it wins the federal election scheduled for October.

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