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Panetta in New Zealand to boost defense relations

AUKLAND, New Zealand — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has arrived in New Zealand to become the first Pentagon chief to visit the South Pacific nation in 30 years. His visit is part of an effort to rebuild military ties that were fractured when the New Zealand banned nuclear warships from its shores.

In recent years the relationship between the two countries has begun to thaw, and in June officials signed a new defense agreement that focuses on building maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region, establishing regular policy dialogue and working together to counter threats.

New Zealand banned nuclear weapons from the country 25 years ago and as a result U.S. warships can't enter its ports. New Zealand ships are not allowed in U.S. military or Coast Guard ports or facilities.