WELLINGTON, Nov. 25 -- New Zealand Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee said Tuesday that he discussed the role of the U.S.- led coalition to fight the Islamic State with outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in their first bilateral talks.
Brownlee said in a statement from his office that during the talks in Washington he and Hagel reaffirmed the two countries' close and long-standing defense relationship, and noted the progress made in recent years.
They also discussed defense and security issues, including the United States' leadership role in the coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The New Zealand government announced earlier this month that it was sending military analysts to the Middle East to study options for training Iraqi forces in the fight against the Islamic State insurgents.
The two countries had steadily increased their defense engagement since they had signed the Washington Declaration in 2012, Brownlee said.
"Regular engagement is now commonplace and we're both looking forward to the continuing growth of this relationship in coming years," he said.
"Today we discussed the numerous defense and security challenges facing the world at the moment, and we agreed it is important that we regularly touch base with key partners to discuss how to address them."
Brownlee and Hagel had reaffirmed their commitment to a stable and secure Asia-Pacific region, and to countering the threat posed by violent extremism and returning foreign fighters.
While in Washington as part of his first official visit to North America since becoming defense minister in October, Brownlee would also meet with officials from the Department of State.