PEARL HARBOR (AP) - The Royal New Zealand Navy's exclusion from docking at Pearl Harbor during this month's Rim of the Pacific international naval exercises has created a kerfuffle among political commentators in that country.
Two New Zealand warships, the frigate Te Kaha and tanker Endeavor, were not allowed to berth in Pearl Harbor with the rest of the international fleet from 22 countries. The ships were instead docked at Aloha Tower.
"What other conclusion is it possible to draw from the absurd, vindictive and ultimately short-sighted refusal by the United States to allow two New Zealand naval vessels to berth at the Pearl Harbor military base?" the New Zealand Herald's top political commentator wrote.
The port ban stretches back 30 years, when New Zealand's anti-nuclear policy prohibited nuclear-powered-or-armed warships from visiting the country. That policy essentially excluded all U.S. Navy vessels, because the U.S. neither confirms nor denies whether ships have nuclear weapons.
In response, the U.S. banned visits to its military ports by New Zealand ships.
New Zealand Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman told the media that he did not know about the docking issue until he read a newspaper report, while Prime Minister John Key said he knew ahead of time.
Although the ship-porting ban remained in effect, military relations between the two countries have improved since 2003, when New Zealand sent troops to Afghanistan. Yet some noted that the relations seem to have chilled with the apparent snub.