Marshall Islands - Foreign Relations
While the Government of the Marshall Islands is free to conduct its own foreign relations, it does so under the terms of the Compact of Free Association. Since independence, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has established relations with 67 nations, including most other Pacific Island nations. Regional cooperation, through membership in various regional and international organizations, is a key element in its foreign policy.
The Marshall Islands became a member of the United Nations in September 1991. The Marshall Islands maintains embassies in the U.S., Fiji, Japan, and Taiwan.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a sovereign nation in "free association" with the United States. After more than a decade of negotiation, the Marshall Islands and the United States signed the Compact of Free Association on June 25, 1983. The people of the Marshall Islands approved the Compact in a UN-observed plebiscite on September 7, 1983. The U.S. Congress subsequently approved the Compact, adding several amendments which were accepted by the Government of the Marshall Islands, and the Compact entered into force on October 21, 1986. From 1999-2003, the two nations negotiated an Amended Compact that entered into force on May 1, 2004. Under the Amended Compact, the U.S. will provide the Marshall Islands at least $57 million every year until 2023, including contributions to a jointly managed trust fund. Marshallese will continue to have access to many U.S. programs and services. A Joint Economic Management and Financial Accountability Committee (JEMFAC) comprised of representatives of both governments will ensure that Compact assistance funds are spent effectively.
Under the Compact, the United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands, and the Government of the Marshall Islands is obligated to refrain from taking actions that would be incompatible with these security and defense responsibilities.
The Department of Defense, under a subsidiary government-to-government agreement of the Compact, has use of the lagoon and several islands on Kwajalein Atoll. The atoll consists of approximately 90 islets around the largest lagoon in the world. The agreement allows the United States continued use of the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) missile test range until 2066 with an option until 2086. Another major subsidiary agreement of the original Compact provides for settlement of all claims arising from the U.S. nuclear tests conducted at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls from 1946 to 1958. Under the terms of free association, more than 40 U.S. Government agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Postal Service, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Interior operate programs or render assistance to the Marshall Islands.
The United States and the Marshall Islands have full diplomatic relations. The Marshall Islands has expressed an interest in attracting U.S. investment.
The United States conducted 67 nuclear explosive tests in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. While the Compact of Free Association included a full and final settlement of all nuclear-related claims, the United States agreed to a provision that allows the Marshall Islands to present a petition for additional compensation if there are “changed circumstances” as defined in the agreement. The RMI submitted such a petition in 2000.
The United States provided a total of more than $604 million to the affected communities. Adjusting for inflation, this amount equals $1.055 billion in 2010 dollars, or $1.87 million per original inhabitant of the four affected atolls (Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap, and Utrik) at the time of the testing, in funds and programs designed to support those impacted by the nuclear testing program.
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