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US to reinstate New Zealand military ship visits

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says that after a 25-year ban, America will begin allowing Royal New Zealand Navy ships to visit U.S. military and Coast Guard facilities around the world.

Panetta says a policy change will allow the defense secretary to authorize individual visits. He says the U.S. also is removing restrictions to make it easier for the two militaries to engage in exercises and for leaders to hold security discussions.

Panetta spoke during a news conference Friday at the Government House with New Zealand Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman.

New Zealand banned nuclear weapons from the country 25 years ago so U.S. warships have not been able to enter its ports, and New Zealand ships were not allowed in U.S. military or Coast Guard ports.