The New Zealand Embassy in Washington D.C. is a lovely place to conduct an interview, but it is a stark contrast to the topic on hand - nuclear terrorism. Still, when I looked past the bright sunshine and beautiful flowers, I viewed dozens of police cars and not-so-secret service agents, walking around with devices in their ears, special equipment, and lots of weapons - concealed and visible. The agents were guarding the NZ Embassy, the British Embassy, and the Vice President's residence across the narrow Observatory Circle. He was hosting his own series of sensitive world leaders. Dignitaries from 47 countries are in Washington for the two day summit on nuclear control.
Prior to his luncheon in his Residence, the Vice President spent 45 minutes with Prime Minister Key at the White House. The President was not on the agenda this time, except for a brief handshake and chat at the Summit. But, they have met and will meet again in the future.
The Vice President issued an upbeat statement, making it clear the relationship between New Zealand and the United States is on a solid footing, although the countries still disagree on the nuclear issue. This puts New Zealand in the unusual position of being the only non-nuclear power country in this conference. It is actually a leader in the non nuclear movement. Prime Minister Key says both countries keep their nuclear laws on the books, and he does not expect to see any nuclear powered ships coming to New Zealand, if these ships are even still in use. But that is all part of the long standing neither confirm nor deny policy, which seems to me so out of date at this time!
The Prime Minister confirmed that US relations are better under the Obama Administration then they have been for a long time. He says he is hopeful about an eventual free trade agreement, but powerful trade interests in this country continue to oppose it. Still, the Prime Minister points out, the need for food continues to increase around the world.
Prime Minister Key says his meeting with the Vice President was "extremely warm, wide ranging, and very friendly." The issues were serious, including Afghanistan and terrorism. The Prime Minister says New Zealand continues to do its part, because it is as vulnerable as anyone else to terrorism.
The Prime Minister told us he is hopeful the world's economy is improving, but there will be a tough year or two ahead.
The Prime Minister met and mingled with most of the other dignitaries, at the Summit and at some events in the New Zealand Embassy. He also conducted his own series of bilaterial meetings, with countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Chile. Next it is onto Canada for more meetings.
This Summit may not produce any binding agreements, but it is always good for leaders to come together and discuss nuclear control and anti-terrorism measures.