Marshalls politics still co-opted by US, says Pilger

11:41 am on 18 April 2017

A filmmaker whose latest production documents the toxic legacy of nuclear testing in the Marshall islands, says the country's political scene remains co-opted by US interests.

Still from The Coming War on China

Photo: supplied / The Coming War On China

The experience of Marshall Islanders due to US nuclear testing is featured in award-winning journalist John Pilger's film The Coming War On China, which examines the US pivot in the Asia-Pacific region.

"So the Marshall Islands where, really, the nuclear age got underway after the Second World War, is again the scene of the testing of weapons of mass destruction with the real possibility of another war, but this time on the other side of the Pacific with China."

Mr Pilger said US compensation to the Marshall Islands had been woefully lacking despite the devastation of their islands, and the inter-generational health problems, due to testing.

As for the Marshallese, he said they had suffered from ongoing cultural absorption.

"And particularly of the elite. And does the elite represent a political force that might change things for the better in the Marshall Islands? I'm not sure I know the answer to that question but that integration of what is basically an American colonial regime has co-opted many of their politicians and entrapped them."

The Runit Dome was constructed on Marshall Islands Enewetak Atoll in 1979 to temporarily store radioactive waste produced from nuclear testing by the US military during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Runit Dome was constructed on Marshall Islands Enewetak Atoll in 1979 to temporarily store radioactive waste produced from nuclear testing by the US military during the 1950s and 1960s. Photo: Supplied

Mr Pilger said that as well as nuclear contamination, American use of the Marshall Islands for military purposes has left a legacy of impoverishment.

He said filming in the country brought home how extensively Marshall Islanders suffered through lack of employment for young people and the demise of their traditional resources.

The filmmaker and journalist said one of the drivers of impoverishment was the way in which resources had been withheld from the great powers who exploited the Marshallese in the past.

"Infrastructure is really very poor in the Marshall Islands. The United States could have rebuilt, if you like, those parts of the islands that would have helped the people. But it chose not to. Instead, in the middle of Majuro, the capital, you can go in and have yourself tested for the level of plutonium in your body. It's very bizarre."