The first dedicated bilateral visit by a United States of Secretary of State to New Zealand in 10 years will take place this weekend, symbolising the warming of relations between the two countries.
Condoleezza Rice arrives in Auckland late tonight and holds talks with her New Zealand counterpart Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Prime Minister Helen Clark tomorrow.
The last visit by a Secretary of State was that of Madeleine Albright in 1998, though this was noted at the time for its brevity.
Prior to that, George Shultz visited in 1984 shortly after the election of David Lange's Labour government.
That visit was sparked by US concerns over the new government's anti-nuclear policy which eventually led to the cooling of relations and the collapse of the Anzus defence alliance.
In recent years the relationship has improved and Dr Rice's acceptance of an invitation from Mr Peters to visit New Zealand marks another stage in that improvement.
On the agenda for talks is relations between the two countries including New Zealand's desire for a trade deal.
Other issues will include Pacific issues and in particular Fiji, Afghanistan, North Korea, the Middle East, human rights issues, illegal fishing in the Pacific and whaling.
On Sunday, Dr Rice flys with Mr Peters to Samoa for meeting with Pacific Forum ministers.
"I am delighted Dr Rice was able to accept my suggestion of a short stop in the Pacific during this trip. Her time in Samoa will provide an excellent opportunity to hold talks with Pacific ministers on their home turf," Mr Peters said recently.
The US has recently increased its diplomatic efforts in the region after instability in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga and elsewhere.
An increase in Chinese activity in the South Pacific has also raised some concerns in Washington.
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