ANZUS Pledge in Peril: Shultz : Warns New Zealand Over Its Nuclear Warship Ban
Secretary of State George P. Shultz threatened today that the United States might withdraw its pledge to defend New Zealand because the longtime ally refuses port facilities to nuclear-equipped American warships.
After a 30-minute meeting with Prime Minister David Lange, Shultz said the anti-nuclear policy violates elements of the 35-year-old defense agreement the two nations have with Australia, leaving Washington no choice but to withdraw its protection.
“We part company as friends, but we part company--as far as the alliance is concerned,” Shultz told reporters as he emerged from the meeting. It was held in Lange’s suite at a hotel serving as headquarters for a conference of foreign ministers sponsored by the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations.
Lange said both sides stuck to their positions and “at this stage they’re not reconcilable,” but he expressed confidence that the United States would aid his country in an emergency if only to defend its own interests.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no formal notification of a rupture had been transmitted to New Zealand. He described the withdrawal of security guarantees as “a process” and said today’s meeting put the United States “a little farther down the line” toward ending military relations.
He noted that, since New Zealand barred the U.S. Navy destroyer Buchanan from visiting the country last year, the United States has halted joint exercises and stopped sharing intelligence data.
Both will continue defense cooperation with Australia, he said. The three-nation ANZUS treaty was signed in 1951, when the United States was forming military alliances throughout the world.
The dispute stems from a decision by Lange’s Labor government, which follows a non-nuclear policy, not to allow warships into its ports without assurance that they are not nuclear-powered and do not carry nuclear weapons.
U.S. policy does not permit disclosing such information.
Shultz said today that if the United States deviated from its policy of secrecy over movement of its nuclear weapons to satisfy New Zealand, it would have to do so for other countries.
If other nations followed New Zealand’s example, he said, the Western nuclear-deterrent strategy against the Soviet Union would be crippled.
The New Zealand ban is not to be codified into law until a parliamentary action in August, but both leaders said they did not expect the situation to change before then.
According to Shultz, the New Zealand policy means Lange’s government “has withdrawn an essential element of its participation” in the ANZUS pact.
“In light of that, the United States considers that the treaty, at least as it has been understood, doesn’t apply in the sense of the responsibility of the United States to extend its security responsibility to New Zealand--at least that’s the prospect as this is unfolding,” he said.