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.
Some New Zealand veterans are seeking compensation for
chronic illnesses suffered by them and their families.
Although the National Party was in power during the
Vietnam War, Duynhoven said his current Labour
government was responsible for setting the record
"Any government has to deal with the situation it finds
itself in and it's always a problem if previous
governments leave a mess."
From 1961 to 1971, the US and South Vietnamese military
sprayed millions of litres of toxic herbicides, mainly
Agent Orange, over South Vietnam to destroy the
vegetation used by communist forces for cover and food.
Hanoi says the defoliant has caused health problems for
more than one million Vietnamese and continues to have
A study released in August last year by scientists from
the United States, Germany and Vietnam found that Agent
Orange was still contaminating people through their
Dioxin, the defoliant's deadly component, can cause an
increased risk of cancers, immunodeficiencies,
reproductive and developmental changes, nervous system
problems and other health effects, according to medical