WELLINGTON, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- United States Secretary of Defence Leo Panetta announced on Friday that the ban on New Zealand Defence Force vessels visiting American ports has been lifted.
Panetta is in New Zealand for talks with New Zealand Defence Minister Jonathon Coleman.
After discussions with Coleman and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully at Government House in Auckland, Panetta described New Zealand as a true friend of the United States.
He told a media conference that the two countries will be strengthening their relationship, and part of that will see New Zealand Navy ships in U.S. ports.
Panetta also expressed his condolences for the recent deaths of New Zealand defence personnel in Afghanistan.
Panetta came to New Zealand after his visit to Japan and China. His visit to New Zealand is the first by the top person in the Pentagon in 30 years.
The invitation to visit New Zealand came after the signing of the Washington Declaration, which aims to strengthen political and defence co-operation, in June this year.