Defence relations between the United States and New Zealand have warmed even more with the signing of a new defence co-operation pact in Washington.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman and Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones were welcomed to the Pentagon this morning by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta to sign the Washington Declaration.

It is similar to the 2010 Wellington Declaration between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Murray McCully establishing what they called a "new strategic partnership.

The new declaration reflects the increasingly close ties between New Zealand the US, Dr Coleman said after the signing.


"New Zealand's relationship with the US has advanced significantly in the last three years, with the signing of the Wellington Declaration in 2010 and Prime Minister John Key's visit to Washington last year."

The Washington Declaration is not like the ANZUS Treaty security treaty of 1951 between the US, Australia and New Zealand.

That has been defunct since New Zealand banned nuclear armed or powered vessels in the mid-1980s and the US refused to confirm or deny such information about its vessels.

The new arrangement establishes greater co-operation in maritime security, counter-terrorism, anti-piracy measures, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and United Nations and multilateral peace-keeping support initiatives.

It also sets out greater cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Pacific region.

"This high-level arrangement recognises the significant security cooperation that exists between New Zealand and the US within the context of our independent foreign policy, and seeks to build upon that cooperation in the years ahead," Dr Coleman said.

Defence ties were a major casualty of the anti-nuclear rift with a ban by the United States on exercising with New Zealand except by special permission, such as when the SAS was preparing to fight with the US in Afghanistan.

Humanitarian naval exercises resumed in the past two years and regular combat exercises by troops resumed only in April this year.


Dr Coleman began his visit with talks at the United Nations about peace-keeping efforts including in Syria where the UN Mission is sticking to home base until the situation stabilises. New Zealand has six Defence personnel in the mission.

Today is Dr Coleman's first official dialogue with Mr Panetta, but the pair met recently in Singapore at the Shangri-La Dialogue conference at which Mr Panetta announced that the US planned to increase its naval presence in the Asia Pacific region with 60 per cent of its fleet there instead of the 50:50 split at present between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.