US Navy ship visits Wellington this month amid complex US-China relations – Community News
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US Navy ship visits Wellington this month amid complex US-China relations

The USS Sampson will be the first American warship to call at a port in New Zealand since the nuclear standoff in the 1980s. Photo / Included

For the first time in five years, a US naval vessel will call at New Zealand.

The gas turbine-powered destroyer is expected to dock in Wellington this month, the NZDF said.

Sailors on the US Navy vessel will spend at least 14 days in isolation at sea before sailing into New Zealand. They will have to test negative for Covid-19 before disembarking.

The last US Navy ship to be visited was the gas turbine-powered destroyer USS Sampson, shortly after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

The visit marked a thaw in bilateral relations after the decades-long deadlock over visits to nuclear-powered ships.

Prime Minister John Key visits the US Navy vessel USS Sampson at Devonport Naval Base in November 2016.  Photo / Nick Reed.
Prime Minister John Key visits the US Navy vessel USS Sampson at Devonport Naval Base in November 2016. Photo / Nick Reed.

Sampson arrived with the Canadian frigate HMCS Vancouver and the Australian frigate HMAS Darwin.

The upcoming ship visit was a positive sign for bilateral relations, political scientist Steve Hoadley said today.

The fact that it had been five years since the last visit may have been because the US Navy had moved into the background of a number of other uniformed services under the Trump administration.

He said bilateral relations sparked a leak in the 1980s when Prime Minister David Lange and US Secretary of State George Shultz failed to agree on a nuclear-free policy.

“They hadn’t had a ship visit in 32 years after the outage between Shultz and Lange. They had an altercation in Manila and Schultz eventually ran out of patience.”

Shultz told Lange at the 1986 Asean meeting in the Philippines, “We break up as friends, but we break up.”

Hoadley, from the University of Auckland, said bilateral cooperation was continuing in other arenas.

He said there was some disagreement over whether the intelligence services of both countries experienced any disruption.

US presidents Bill Clinton assessed the relationship and gradually warmed to the idea of ​​closer US-New Zealand relations, Hoadley added.

It was under the Barack Obama administration that USS Sampson paid a visit.

“They decided that the US, especially in competition with China, needed any allies or partners,” Hoadley said.

Although USS Sampson arrived in Kaikōura shortly after the earthquake, the visit was believed to take at least a year of planning.

Hoadley said the Trump administration has been paying more attention to its nuclear deterrent and the United States Space Force created in 2019.

The US Navy lacked in some respects under Trump, Hoadley said, so visits to distant lands like New Zealand were sometimes not advanced.

He said the bilateral relationship between the US and New Zealand is strong in almost every way these days.

Ship follows virtual superpower summit

The visit to the ship follows recent breakthroughs in US-China relations after months of mounting tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

China and the US agreed last week to encourage decarbonisation, green design and renewable energy, and work together to reduce methane emissions.

US President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday.  Photo / Getty
US President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday. Photo / Getty

The bilateral agreement seemed to surprise many other countries and was announced at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

Hoadley said a virtual meeting of the US and Chinese presidents this week was a positive development for regional and international peace and stability.

He said the meeting showed that Joe Biden could be a “friendly” competitor rather than a brutal adversary, but also that the US would push back where it was an exception to Beijing’s policies.

Biden’s virtual meeting with Xi Jinping followed a recent agreement the two countries reached on cutting emissions.

Hoadley said tensions persisted over issues such as Taiwan’s status and security.

But he said the US was encouraging Taiwan to invest in more missiles, submarines and defensive equipment to discourage aggression from China.

He said Xi was also increasingly concerned about domestic social and economic issues and the country’s “common prosperity” policies aimed at reducing wealth disparities.

Hoadley said armed conflict with Taiwan or a wider military conflagration would jeopardize Beijing’s ability to curb the power of Chinese billionaires and conduct egalitarian local policies.

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