It marked the first time New Zealand forces were invited to participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific naval exercise since New Zealand banned nuclear-armed or nuclear-powered U.S. Navy ships from making port calls to that country in 1984, Time magazine reports.
But almost all the ships participating in the exercise are berthed at Pearl Harbor while the two New Zealand ships are berthed several miles away at Honolulu's civilian harbor.
Some see it as a deliberate snub.
"Petty, petulant and pathetic," the New Zealand Herald said. "What other conclusion is it possible to draw from the absurd, vindictive and ultimately short-sighted refusal by the United States to allow two New Zealand naval vessels to berth at the Pearl Harbor military base?"
Time says 25 percent of respondents to a poll said New Zealand should pull out of the exercise because of the "petty snub."
But Rob Ayson, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University in Wellington, says it's significant that New Zealand was invited to the RIMPAC exercises.
"Everyone's missing the big story, which is that New Zealanders are participating in this exercise for the first time in a generation," Ayson said. "You can look at the limitations that still exist on New Zealand-U.S. port access, or you can say, 'They're finding a way to cooperate more closely.'"