Joe Biden welcomed to Auckland, says US considering Helen Clark for top UN job

US Vice President Joe Biden said the United States was considering supporting Helen Clark as the next Secretary General of the United Nation.

After bilateral talks with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the US vice-president said he had been amazed by the "non-partisan zeal" with which she was being promoted by Key.

"I was impressed. I thought she was his sister.

"But all kidding aside, we have a very high regard for your nominee and she is one who is being closely considered."

Vice President Joe Biden John Key up-close-and-personal. Photo / Greg Bowker
Vice President Joe Biden John Key up-close-and-personal. Photo / Greg Bowker
Joe Biden and his three granddaughters were welcomed to Government House. Photo / Supplied
Joe Biden and his three granddaughters were welcomed to Government House. Photo / Supplied

Clark, the former Labour Prime Minister whom Key defeated in 2008, is one of 12 candidates nominated for the post, a with a 13th likely in the form of former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Speaking to reporters later, Key said while none of the permanent five members of the UN Security Council would say who they were supporting, he believed the US would go into the process with an open mind.

"Let's put it this way - if they were going to vote against her, we would know that, and that is definitely not the case."

The Security Council begins its first round of secret ballots about 2am tomorrow (NZ time) in order to reduce the field.

But the results will not be announced.

The selection process is expected to take months.

Flags from each nation were flown as the Biden and Key paid tribute at the Auckland War Memorial Museum to those who've given their lives.

The sun made a brief appearance in the otherwise cloudy day as Biden and Key both laid a wreath paid at the foot of the cenotaph outside the museum shortly before 2pm this afternoon.

After the wreaths were laid the flags were slowly taken down as the bugle was played and the handful of people gathered looked on the traditional memorial ceremony.

After a few words in both Maori and English were spoken, in remembrance of those fallen soldiers, there was a brief period of silence before the flags were once again raised to the sound of the bugle.

Following the ceremony Biden spent time talking to a couple of war vets and members of the Defence Force.

Key and Biden then exchanged a few words at the steps of the museum before heading off in the official motorcade.

This is Biden's last official public outing on his whirlwind visit of the city.

He arrived in Auckland on Wednesday as part of the next leg of his tour aimed at reinforcing the US presence in the Pacific.

It followed from his three-day visit of Australia.

Biden, and his entourage, including three of his four granddaughters, Natalie, 12, Finnegan, 18, and Naomi, 21, are due to fly out later this afternoon.

Earlier, Biden and his granddaughters were welcomed to Government House in Auckland by the Defence Force Maori cultural group.

Government House kaumatua Lewis Moeau talked Biden through the protocols, including the wero, the fierce challenge by Lance Corporal Karl Manuel of the Army.

Biden accepted the challenge by picking up a wooden spear-head that had been laid at his feet.

The guard of honour was provided by the Navy.

US ambassador Mark Gilbert and his wife, Nancy, were part of the visitor group too.

US Vice-President Joe Biden and the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker
US Vice-President Joe Biden and the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker

Key accompanied Biden and his group to the house for bilateral talks in which Biden formally accepted the invitation to send a US naval vessel to New Zealand this year, the first in 33 years.

At the start of the bilateral meeting, Key said the relationship between the US and New Zealand was in the best shape it had ever been.

He thanked Biden and the Obama administration for being "accommodating" to New Zealand's needs.

Biden said New Zealand had been easy to deal with and shared the same values as the US.

Biden said he would have liked to have stayed longer but he had to return to the US for the Democratic convention.

"Usually the outgoing Administration shows up on the first day and leaves and says goodbye," Biden said.

US Vice-President Joe Biden and the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key greet each other at Government House. Photo / Greg Bowker
US Vice-President Joe Biden and the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key greet each other at Government House. Photo / Greg Bowker

He joked that it was a good thing he was not staying long.

"The joke in my family is we're like poor relatives. We show up when we're invited, we stay longer than we should and we eat all the food."

- NZ Herald

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