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Sculptural works by Vietnamese students representing disabled child victims of the defoliant Agent Orange used by US army during the Vietnam War(AFP/file) New Zealand Confirms Supplying Agent Orange in Vietnam War
January 9, 2005
AUCKLAND - New Zealand supplied Agent Orange chemicals to the United States military during the Vietnam war, a government minister has revealed.
The disclosure led to immediate claims that New Zealand was in breach of the Geneva convention and could face a flood of lawsuits from veterans and Vietnamese.
Transport Minister Harry Duynhoven said the highly toxic chemical was sent to a United States base in the Philippines during the 1960s.
"The information that has been given to me is that products used to make Agent Orange were shipped from New Plymouth to Subic Bay in the Philippines," he told the Sunday News newspaper.
After nearly three decades of official denials, a high-level parliamentary committee formally acknowledged late last year that New Zealand soldiers in the Vietnam War were significantly exposed to Agent Orange, but no mention was ever made that the country was a supplier.
Although the National Party was in power during the Vietnam War, Duynhoven said his current Labour government was responsible for setting the record straight.
"Any government has to deal with the situation it finds itself in and it's always a problem if previous governments leave a mess."
Veterans spokesman John Moller said the government must compensate ex-soldiers and their families, some of whom have suffered generations of health problems.
"It's bloody unacceptable what the New Zealand government has done to us and the other countries involved in the war," he said.
"Through their deceit, cover-up and negligence, the New Zealand government has the blood of thousands of Kiwis, Vietnamese, Australians and Americans on their hands."
Under the Geneva Convention, countries cannot be party to chemical warfare and must declare the use or supply of defoliants during conflicts.
The vice-chancellor of Canterbury University, Scott Davidson, an authority on international law, said the government had left itself open to lawsuits from Vietnamese.