Prime Minister John Key says he would like to see the United States Coast Guard return to New Zealand waters.
The US Navy was unlikely to relax its "neither confirm nor deny" nuclear policy so would not be allowed in under New Zealand's 25-year-old nuclear-free law.
However, the Coast Guard would fit New Zealand's law and being in New Zealand waters was logical considering our link with Antarctica, he said.
Members of the US Marines are in New Zealand to commemorate 70 years since they arrived here during World War 2.
Key this morning attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial in Wellington.
This evening a sunset ceremony featuring the Marine band will be held on Parliament's forecourt.
Key said it was a significant anniversary for New Zealand.
"They made a remarkable contribution. It was a pivotal time for New Zealand, they did some good work, including out here."
Last month a contingent of Marines took part in an exercise in Waiouru, the first time US troops had been on New Zealand soil in about 30 years.
Key said it was a sign the bilateral relationship was fully thawed.
"We accept there are differences, they accept our position in terms of our anti-nuclear stance but we've put that behind us and we're celebrating some great things that we've done together and the future we've also got together."
The New Zealand public would warmly receive the Marines, said Key, who acknowledged there had been some criticism of the closer relationship with the US.
"New Zealand runs an independent foreign policy and has done so now for many, many years. It will continue to do so.
"We have good relations with a lot of people but I would say we have some very historic allies and they include the United States, Australia, Canada and Britain. My view is you can't take that history away."
New Zealand had a lot in common with the US, including training and some intelligence sharing.
"It's a broad relationship, it's in New Zealand's interests."