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NZ ship ban beyond my control - US general

Published: 8:25PM Friday July 20, 2012 Source: ONE News

The head of a US maritime operation has spoken for the first time about the ban against New Zealand ships in Pearl Harbour.

US Navy Vice Admiral General Gerald Beaman is the Commanding Officer of the bi-annual Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) in which New Zealand ships Te Kaha and Endeavour are currently taking part.

Situated off the coast of Hawaii, RIMPAC allows allied US military forces to participate in weapons testing and humanitarian exercises.

However, New Zealand's ban on nuclear ships meant our Navy's ships docked in Hawaii because they are not allowed inside Pearl Harbour.

Beaman says it is a long-standing political decision, made outside of the military and outside of his control.

"That was a policy decision. That was outside of the purview of the RIMPAC exercise," Beaman said.

RIMPAC is hosted by the United States Navy's Pacific Command, in conjunction with the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and Hawaii National Guard forces.

"It's an opportunity to bring together a team now in a training environment as opposed to when a real world event might take place," Beaman told ONE News US Correspondent Jack Tame.

Despite the ban, Beaman has stationed an American ship with the New Zealanders to act as a host.

Most of the 22 RIMPAC nations have participated in weapons testing, with this year's exercise to involve combatants from the US, Canada, Japan and Australia.

There are six countries this year involved in RIMPAC for the first time, although China is a noticeable absence from the list.

The US insists the exercise is not just a show of force to the Chinese government.

"The tactical part of RIMPAC is not directed at any specific location. Obviously, the Rim of the Pacific nations are taking part, but there's no one geographic location that is targeted or replicated if you will," Beaman said.

The US has, however, begun a tactical shift with its naval fleets by moving more ships to the Pacific.

Beaman says over the next few years RIMPAC exercises will be critical in strengthening its allied Pacific force.

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