22 Apr 2003

Kwajalein landowners say the US must pay millions more

4:39 pm on 22 April 2003

Landowners on the Marshalls Islands Atoll of Kwajalein say they'll reject a 50 year extension of the current lease with the United States unless their compensation demands are met.

The Chairman of the Kwajalein Negotiations Commission, Christopher Loeak says the landowners want 19.1 million US dollars annually for the use of the Atoll over a planned 50 year extension to the agreement.

The US is offering 14 million dollars annually.

The Marshalls and the U.S. are poised to sign a new Compact of Free Association which covers the next 20 years and is worth 3 billion dollars.

The previous deal allowed for Kwajalein Atoll to be used by the US military as a missile testing range until 2016.

The new compact will extend the land lease, or LUA, by a further 50 years.

Mr Loeak says if the US does not accept their demand, the landowners will only allow it to use the land until 2016.

". The mandate we got from the landowners, was that we negotiated a better deal now, and that if it's not to their satifaction then they'll honour the present LUA, which will end in 2016, but then that'll be it."

Christopher Loeak of Kwajalein Negotiations Commission