The United State's top Pacific military commander is in New Zealand on his first visit in the role and will hold talks with the Prime Minister and Chief of Defence Force.

Admiral Harry B Harris took over command of US Pacific Command in May and will be in New Zealand until Thursday after flying in on a military jet today.

He will meet Prime Minister John Key and Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee today and Chief of Defence Force Tim Keating tomorrow. He will also visit Linton Military Camp and have a formal welcome and wreath-laying ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park tomorrow.

Admiral Harris has visited New Zealand before - he did an exchange with the NZ Navy early in his own career. He said he was looking forward renewing his New Zealand connections.


Mr Brownlee said joint exercises and operations with the United States in the Pacific were due to continue.

"The defence relationship between New Zealand and the United States is a hugely important one, and it is in excellent shape."

In 2012, New Zealand and the United States signed the Washington Declaration for closer military co-operation. Later that year New Zealand took part in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (Rimpac) for the first time in 28 years since the nuclear-free legislation ended New Zealand's involvement in Anzus. However, New Zealand's naval ships were not allowed to dock at Pearl Harbour with the rest of the participants.

In 2014, that was lifted so the New Zealand Navy could dock at Pearl Harbour.

In a statement, Admiral Harris said President Barack Obama's foreign policy of 'rebalancing' toward the Asia Pacific had led to more joint missions and training exercises between the US and New Zealand military.

New Zealand and the United States are both currently taking part in the Exercise Talisman Sabre joint training exercise with Australia.

"Our enhanced partnership with New Zealand is part of the United States re-balance and has created new opportunities for defence collaboration in maritime security, humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping," Admiral Harris said.

He pointed to missions such as the Pacific Partnership and Combined Maritime Force in Southwest Asia in areas such as disaster relief and anti-piracy.