Talk about teaching granny to suck eggs! As American president Donald Trump sits in his bed late at night, prodding the North Korean wasp nest with his little Twitter stick, his New Zealand ambassador is busy telling us we Kiwis don't appreciate how dangerous the situation is.

Ambassador Scott Brown told a Fairfax reporter that many New Zealanders think they're so far away it really doesn't affect us. "Well it does," he said.

If the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "decides to drop a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean ... The fallout could come here. It could affect the fishing and all the sea life. It'd dramatically affect climate and economy and the ability to travel freely in that region without being contaminated. So, yeah, it does affect New Zealand."

To have the ambassador of a country with a nuclear arsenal of 6,800 warheads, lecturing little nuclear-free New Zealand on the perils of his country's weapon of choice, is totally surreal. Didn't his briefing notes from the State Department when he took up his Wellington posting alert him to the fact that when it comes to nuclear weapons, the people of this country are united in our opposition.


I'm sure he would also have been briefed on the fact that his country expelled New Zealand from the Anzus defence pact, and stripped us of our "ally" status, following the Lange Government's ban in 1985 on nuclear-powered or armed ships visiting our ports. It was a grudge that the Americans let fester for more than 30 years before trying to kiss and make up under President Obama.

It's not that Kiwis don't care about nuke threats, it's just that after all the nuclear poison already sprayed in our neighbourhood, we find it hard to see President Trump as the white knight. Photo / US Department of Defense
It's not that Kiwis don't care about nuke threats, it's just that after all the nuclear poison already sprayed in our neighbourhood, we find it hard to see President Trump as the white knight. Photo / US Department of Defense

Hopefully the briefing notes would also have pointed out our antipathy towards other people dropping nuclear weapons in our front yard was nurtured by the way his country, and the United Kingdom and France, used the Pacific Ocean north of New Zealand and the Australian desert, to test and experiment with their weapons of mass destruction.

Between 1946 and 1962, the United States conducted 105 atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests in the Marshall Island area - territory granted to the USA by the United Nations to be governed as "trust territories".

We know, as the ambassador points out, that nuclear weapons are poisonous to the environment because the nuclear fallout from these explosions has caused ongoing health problems for local people and made islands, and surrounding waters, dangerously radioactive. Since 1956, more than a NZ$1 billion in compensation has been made to Marshall Islanders affected by cancers, birth defects and other results of the testing.

Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Illustration / Peter Bromhead

The British did most of their southern hemisphere testing on the Australian mainland, but also used Kiritimati (Christmas Island) for six tests. As for the French, they tested nearly 200 nuclear bombs in French Polynesia between 1960-1996, leading to large protests by New Zealanders on land and sea, and the blowing up of the Rainbow Warrior protest ship in Auckland harbour by French government agents in July 1985. It was the failure of our traditional nuclear-armed allies, the USA and UK, to condemn, what Prime Minister David Lange called "state sponsored terrorism" that reinforced New Zealanders opposition to nuclear powered ship and weapons in our waters.

So if Ambassador Brown is nonplussed about New Zealanders' reluctance to back his president's bullying of Kim Jong Un, and our slowness to throw up our arms in horror at his threat to explode a single H-bomb in the Pacific, it's not that we don't care. It's just that after all the nuclear poison the Americans, French and British have sprayed about our neighbourhood over the past half century, we find it very hard to see President Trump as the white knight.

You only have to recall his recent public evisceration of the poor mayor of cyclone-ravaged San Juan, Puerto Rico after pleading for help, to be reminded he is just as unpredictably scary as his North Korean counterpart. And while Kim Jong Un, according to Time Magazine, has enough material for, at best, 20 nuclear bombs, Trump has 6,800 warheads at his disposal - 1,800 of them deployed and ready to go. To rub it in, he also has his rival surrounded by 83 military bases in South Korea and 113 in Japan.