The State Department has assured New Zealand that it may continue buying U.S. military equipment despite a dispute between the two countries over New Zealand's refusal to allow U.S. nuclear warships into its ports, New Zealand's ambassador said yesterday.
Ambassador Wallace Rowling said his country received assurances of continued arms sales from William Brown, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, during his talks with New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Rowling made the comments in a news conference at the National Press Club, where he defended his country's antinuclear policy. Rowling also said his government had been told that the United States would not withhold any intelligence that might be vital to New Zealand's national security.
In his speech, Rowling also said he was unhappy with journalists' portrayal of New Zealanders as "ostriches," "Soviet stooges" and "ideological pacifists." The antinuclear policy, he said, "is not some political aberration . . . . It is representative of a broad mainstream of New Zealand public opinion."
In response to the nuclear ban, the United States has "drastically scaled down" military cooperation, including intelligence-sharing and defense, Lange has said. The United States already has withdrawn from or altered several military training exercises involving New Zealand.
In London, Lange told a news conference yesterday that the United States wants to drive him from office because of his antinuclear policy.
A State Department spokesman yesterday had no comment on the intelligence-sharing with New Zealand. But concerning the arms sales, the spokesman said, "Our foreign military sales to New Zealand continue." Department officials expressed hope that New Zealand will "restore full ANZUS alliance cooperation, and we are prepared to continue talking with New Zealand to that end." The ANZUS defense treaty links Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
New Zealand buys almost all of its air force and army equipment from the United States, a New Zealand Embassy spokesman said. In an average year, when no aircraft purchases are involved, New Zealand buys $35 million to $40 million of arms, mostly spare parts and ammunition, he said.