The US destroyer Sampson has been cleared to dock next month in New Zealand, the first visit by an American warship since the Pacific nation passed anti-nuclear legislation 30 years ago.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer is expected to attend the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary celebrations from November 17 to 22, after Prime Minister John Key approved the visit.
Under New Zealand’s nuclear-free legislation, the prime minister can only grant approval if he is satisfied any foreign military ship entering New Zealand is not nuclear-armed.
“I have granted this approval after careful consideration of the advice provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade,” Key said on Tuesday.
In the mid-1980s, the Labour government of the time announced its decision to ban ships that were either nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed.
The US would not say if its ships had nuclear capability, leading to a stalemate between the two nations.
The US and Australia viewed the move as a breach of the three-way ANZUS treaty, which dates back to 1951. In 1986 the US suspended treaty obligations to New Zealand.