WikiLeaks cable: US Ambassador raises possibility of bilateral discussions

This is one of the diplomatic cables about New Zealand held by Wikileaks.

10 June, 2005
SUBJECT: WITH NEW ZEALAND PM, AMBASSADOR RAISES POSSIBILITY
OF BILATERAL DISCUSSIONS

This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.

Classified by: Ambassador Charles J. Swindells. Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Begin summary: In a meeting that included discussion
of China's growing power and the need for a U.S. presence in
the Pacific, the Ambassador told New Zealand Prime Minister
Clark that the time was ripe for a frank and comprehensive
dialogue between our governments on issues that hinder our
bilateral relationship, including New Zealand's anti-nuclear
policy. The Prime Minister expressed frustration over the
perception of difficulties in the relationship despite having
so much in common, but did not immediately take up the offer
of dialogue. Nonetheless, while noting that she is focused
on coming national elections, she left the door open to
bilateral discussions, saying there may be an area of
flexibility that would allow the relationship to move
forward. End summary.

PM's visits to China and Japan
------------------------------
2. (U) At the Ambassador's request, he and Prime Minister
Clark met June 8. The Ambassador told the Prime Minister
that it was an opportune time to touch base, in view of
recent trips by Clark to China and Japan, by Foreign Minister
Goff to the United States and Canada, and by the Ambassador
to Washington.

3. (C) Recounting her May 30 to June 4 trip to China and
Japan, PM Clark expressed deep interest in ensuring that
China's emergence as a great power is peaceful. She said New
Zealand would use whatever ability it has to influence
China's direction positively, which was part of the message
that FM Goff took to Washington in late May.

4. (C) Clark reported that the Chinese, who have been
negotiating a free-trade agreement with the New Zealanders
since December 2004, stated their keen interest in achieving
an agreement. When Clark told them that the deal had to be
both ambitious and "high quality," the Chinese agreed.
"We're presented as more cautious than they have been," Clark
commented. China is New Zealand's fourth-largest trade
partner.

5. (C) The Prime Minister said she delivered a strong message
on North Korea to the Chinese, saying she believed that their
role was critical in curbing North Korea's nuclear program --
that they had more influence than anyone else over the North
Korean government. She also noted that while the Chinese
have told the United States to be more subtle in its
approach, subtlety does not work with North Korea.

6. (C) Clark recalled that Chinese President Hu had said at
the last APEC summit that it was important for the Japanese
to not inflame their bilateral relations, pointing
particularly to Japanese leaders' visits to Yasukuni Shrine.
Hu left the impression that the Chinese believed the ball was
in the Japanese court. But that is not the way the Japanese
see it, Clark said. Instead, they believe that by canceling
visits to the shrine, it would appear that they were
succumbing to Chinese pressure.

7. (C) Clark -- noting the importance to New Zealand of its
relationship to Japan, its third-largest trade partner --
said she detected a "reflective" mood in her meeting with
President Koizumi regarding how Japan should deal with its
wartime past. He is mindful of the coming 60th anniversary
of VJ Day. Clark said it will be helpful if Koizumi reflects
over the next two months the humility he expressed in
attending VE Day ceremonies in Moscow.

8. (C) Clark said that on the day she met with Koizumi, the
Australians delivered a demarche on Japan's scientific
whaling activities. She knew that the United States also had
delivered a strong message. She told the Japanese that it
would be a tragedy if they left the International Whaling
Commission. That would allow the Japanese to operate without
any discipline, and we need to continue the dialogue with
them, she said to the Ambassador.

9. (C) Meanwhile, Clark wondered whether resolution of the
tensions between China and Japan would affect both the North
Korean problem and UN Security Council reform. She
speculated that such tensions may have given the Chinese a
reason to hold back on the Six-Party Talks and caused them to
be obstructionist in the United Nations, opposing a permanent
seat on the Security Council for Japan.

U.S.-New Zealand relationship
-----------------------------
10. (C) The Ambassador said that, in his recent meetings with
the President and officials at the White House and State and
Defense Departments, it is clear that the U.S. government
considers the relationship with New Zealand to be important.
It also is clear, however, that the bilateral relationship is
not what it needs to be. Thus, the U.S. government would
like to begin a quiet and frank dialogue with New Zealand on
all issues on which we do not agree. While those issues
would include New Zealand's anti-nuclear legislation, the
discussions might not necessarily result in a change in the
legislation or in a return by New Zealand to the ANZUS
alliance. But we will not know about the possibilities of
moving the bilateral relationship forward unless we talk
about them. However, the Ambassador made it clear that we
are looking to New Zealand to express its interest in such
discussions and to indicate its preferences on when and how
they might take place.

11. (C) PM Clark responded that she was focused on a certain
"date," referring to elections that she has not yet scheduled
but that must be held by September 24. But she added that in
the New Zealand-U.S. relationship, "we have everything in
common." It is frustrating that, despite such commonality,
"the relationship seems to go grumpy" by being seen through
only one issue -- implying, the anti-nuclear issue. She
noted New Zealand's contribution to the war and
reconstruction in Afghanistan and willingness to contribute
to efforts in the Pacific. "When I go to APEC, you can't
split a hair between the President and myself," Clark said.

12. (C) The Ambassador stressed that proceeding with dialogue
would be up to New Zealand and assured Clark that there was
no pressure on her. "We're ready when you tell us you're
ready," the Ambassador said. DCM Burnett said the
discussions could be held privately and could be productive
even if they came full circle. They could help us to work
together more efficiently, for instance, on such efforts at
the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

13. (C) Both countries must find ways to deal with new
realities, Clark responded. The PSI is a classic example:
New Zealand was invited to participate, while some in the
Pentagon suggested it should not be allowed to join the
military exercises.

14. (C) While noting that the United States no longer arms
its ships with nuclear weapons, Clark said her "gut feeling"
was that her government would not want to change its
anti-nuclear legislation, which would continue to ban
nuclear-propelled ships. "I know how your Navy will
respond," she said. DCM Burnett said that the ban was not
necessarily a problem bilaterally since we have never had a
pressing need to send any vessels to New Zealand, but had
repercussions elsewhere in the region in terms of U.S. fleet
mobility. Clark said, "If that's an area of flexibility --
of no need for nuclear ships in our area -- then that's
perhaps an area for us to move forward."

15. (C) The Ambassador pointed out the interest of Australia,
Singapore and other countries in a strong U.S. presence for
regional stability and economic reasons. The Prime Minister
said the emerging strategic architecture in the Pacific had
to include the United States. With the rise of China and
India, with Japan once being "abhorrently" powerful but now
in decline, and with ASEAN as a counterweight, a U.S.
presence is necessary. "China has to be balanced," she said.

16. (C) The Ambassador suggested that opening a dialogue
could highlight areas in which New Zealand and the United
States might increase their cooperation. His successor has
been identified but not yet confirmed, and even though the
Ambassador will be leaving Wellington within the year, he
would ensure continuity in any discussions once they had
started. He noted his deep respect for the Prime Minister
and the belief that she could find a way forward in the
bilateral relationship. He asked that the Prime Minister let
him know if and when she was comfortable with proceeding with
discussions. She responded, half jokingly, "We're here to
help."

17. (U) PM Clark was accompanied by Brook Barrington, her
foreign policy adviser, and Roy Ferguson, director of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Americas Division.
The Ambassador was accompanied by the DCM and acting
political-economic counselor (notetaker).

18. (C) Comment: The message to PM Clark was clear: It is
now up to her government as to whether it chooses to seek
better relations with the United States and pursues dialogue
with us. But a decision will have to wait, with the Labour
government's lead in public opinion polls declining and with
it facing what now appears to be a difficult campaign for
re-election.

Swindells

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