Marshall Islands Compact held up by nuclear legacy

Photo: Government of Nauru/Facebook

The lack of agreement on the nuclear legacy issues holds up the Marshall Islands’ Compact Review negotiations with the United States, according to Marshall Islands Speaker Kenneth Kedi during the Marshall Islands Media Summit on Democracy last week in Majuro.

The disagreements over nuclear legacy issues not being addressed by the United States are holding up the Compact Review progress. “I call it nuclear injustice, not nuclear legacy,” expressed Marshall Islands Speaker Kenneth Kedi.

Matters of contention holding up the negotiations include what Speaker Kedi said is the “refusal” of the U.S. government to pay the US$3.188 billion compensation for the damages from nuclear bomb impacts such as displacement, land contamination, medical costs and more, to compensate the Marshallese people affected by the 67 nuclear bombs detonated in the Marshall Islands.

“The US$150 million that the U.S. paid under the initial Compact as compensation plus the yearly payments they made is simply not enough,” Speaker Kedi said of the initial compensation package under the Compact Agreement.

The Marshall Islands Compact of Free Association Agreement with the United States called for a Nuclear Claims Tribunal to receive and adjudicate the claims of the Marshallese. 

According to Speaker Kedi, the experts the Marshalls Islands brought to the Tribunal assessed the damages and submitted that the U.S. pays the Marshallese US$3.188 billion for the damages from the nuclear legacy. He said the U.S. brought in their own experts to dispute the amount submitted by the Marshalls’ side and have not paid any part of that US$3.188 billion decision by the Tribunal.

“The United States has no better friend than the Marshallese,” said Speaker Kedi citing examples of Marshallese support. During WWII, young Marshallese men served as scouts, seeking Japanese strongholds and reporting them to the United States.  Some were killed under suspicion of working as spies for the United States. From the 50s to the 60s, the U.S. dropped 67 atomic bombs on some of the islands, as a result, displayed U.S. military might during the Cold War.Today, per capita, there are more Marshallese in the U.S military than U.S. citizens. And Marshall Islands is probably the 2nd country to Israel that votes with the United States on nearly every issue in the United Nations.”

The impact of the 67 nuclear bombs detonated in the Marshall Islands destroyed and contaminated lands and made people sick. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the Marshall Islands. People were removed from their islands, displaced, and will not be able to return to their lands due to nuclear contamination.

Yet, the United States remains opposed to the Nuclear Tribunal’s decision that the U.S. pays the Marshallese people the determined cost of the damages. 

The Marshall Islands Compact Review financial package is due this 30 September, 2023. The other non-fiscal negotiations will continue beyond 30 September. Speaker Kedi added that the Marshalls Island Nuclear Negotiations Committee is meeting with U.S. negotiators, trying to conclude these negotiations as soon as possible. The Federated States of Micronesia signed their agreements with the United States on the fiscal extension of the Compact on 23 May 2023. Palau’s Compact Review is due in 2024, but it signed the financial package of its Compact Review on 23 May 2023, in Papua New Guinea.

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