11 Apr 2012

Joint exercise signals US interest in Asia-Pacific

6:33 pm on 11 April 2012

An upcoming military exercise between New Zealand and the United States - the first of its kind in more than 25 years - is being seen as a further signal of America's renewed interest in the Asia-Pacific.

The Supreme Commander of NATO forces in Europe, Admiral James Stavridis, is visiting New Zealand and describes the relationship between the two countries as strong.

New Zealand works with NATO in Afghanistan and its future partnership with the organisation was the agenda at talks in Wellington on Wednesday.

The New Zealand Government says it is laying out a partnership agreement with NATO and the door is open to possible co-operation in the future.

Admiral Stavridis says the partnership could include dealing with piracy and cyber-threats.

The first bi-lateral exercise in 26 years between the US and New Zealand militaries on New Zealand soil will take place later in April. Thirty-five US Marines and 41 US Army personnel will take part in the exercise.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says with the United States taking a greater interest in the Asia-Pacific region, it makes sense for the militaries to learn from each other.

The Labour Party's foreign affairs spokesperson says the exercise should not influence where the Defence Force is deployed.

Phil Goff says the visit is NATO acknowledging the significant role New Zealand can play and the joint military exercise signals a continuing improvement in its relationship with the US.