Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Key confirms new White House visit

Barack Obama and John Key have a chat after the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague, Netherlands, on the 25th of March. Photo / AP
Barack Obama and John Key have a chat after the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague, Netherlands, on the 25th of March. Photo / AP

Prime Minister John Key says he won't raise drone strikes at his White House meeting with US President Barack Obama next month.

However Labour leader David Cunliffe says Mr Key should seek assurances that intelligence provided by New Zealand was only used for purposes that met New Zealand law and international law.

Asked if he would raise the issue of drone strikes given New Zealander Daryl Jones was recently killed while travelling with Al Qaeda targets in Yemen, Mr Key said "absolutely not."

"There'd be no reason to do that."

Mr Cunliffe said Mr Key should raise it, and he would do so if he was Prime Minister.

"I would be seeking to clarify whether there were any limits on the purposes for which New Zealand-supplied intelligence could be put, and I would be seeking assurances that activities which pertained to New Zealand-supplied intelligence were compatible with both the rule of New Zealand law and international law."

Mr Cunliffe said Mr Key should also seek those assurances from the GCSB about what intelligence was used for, saying the New Zealand public had a legitimate interest in it.

He said it was appropriate that the Prime Minister did not put operational details into the public domain, but it was also important that he sought appropriate assurances from the agencies that they were acting within domestic and international law.

Asked what his own view of drone strikes was, he said it was a difficult question.

"It would depend where and when and for what context. I'm not going to make a categorical statement on it because I believe it is a very complex area." He said in instances where New Zealanders were involved, it raised the Government's duty of care to inform New Zealanders about such situations although that should be done without being too specific about operational details.

Yesterday Mr Key said it was not true that information passed on to the US by the GCSB was used in the strike that killed Mr Jones, but could not rule out that other information given to ISAF under the Five Eyes agreement had being used for such purposes.

He said he was comfortable with that, if that was the case. He had only spoken about the involvement of Mr Jones because details of the strike came out in Australian media.

Mr Cunliffe resisted criticising Mr Key for taking the trip just three months out from an election, saying it was always good for a New Zealand Prime Minister to meet with the US President to maintain the relationship.

Mr Key said he expected the Trans Pacific Partnership to be the main topic of conversation. He defended making the trip so close to an election, saying it made sense for the Prime Minister of the day to visit once each term.

He did not know if further talks about a potential war ship visit would be raised. The anti-nuclear legislation requires the Prime Minister to be certain that any visiting warship is not nuclear powered or carrying nuclear arms. No American warship has visited since before 1984.

"That would be a step that the US would have to initiate. My view has been that the nuclear has been well and truly passed now. Both sides understand each other's position.
They would be free to send a ship here if they wanted to, obviously it would have to meet the conditions I'm required to sign as Prime Minister."

- APNZ

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