20 Jan 2003

US and Marshall Islands sign 83 year deal for Kwajalein missile site

7:40 am on 20 January 2003

United States and Marshall islands negotiators have signed a pact that could extend American use of Kwajalein Atoll's missile testing site for more than 80 years.

The negotiators initialed a deal worth at least one point one billion US dollars in direct land rental payments, community development assistance and environ mental protection during talks in Honolulu.

The proposed deal - which must still be formally approved by both governments and the Kwajalein landowners - ends nearly a year of bargaining on new terms for extending US use of Kwajalein, the US military's most important missile testing facility.

The agreement provides for US use of the base until 2066, with a US option to extend for a further 20 years.

The landowners, who have been outspoken in their criticism of the current annual rental of eleven point three million dollars, will have to accept a rental hike to 15 million dollars from October the first, and a further increase to 18 million dollars from 2014.

The landowners said last week their bottom line was 19 point one million dollars annually.