11 Nov 2003

Marshall Islands welcomes renewal of Compact

5:04 pm on 11 November 2003

The Marshall Islands government has welcomed the US Senate's acceptance of the new Compact of Free Association.

The Senators agreed unanimously on renewing the compact, which is expected to get final approval next week, before President Bush signs it into law.

The Compact, between the US, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia is worth three-point-five billion US dollars over twenty years.

In return, the US military will have continued access until 2066 to Kwajalein Atoll which it uses as a missile testing range.

Charles Paul, a spokesperson for the Marshallese government, says the deal does not offer additional health compensation for those islanders affected by radiation from the US nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s..

Mr Paul says the US gave the Marshall Islands 150 million dollars in the original Compact of Free Association to wash its hands of missile testing compensation.

But he says the RMI has a get-out clause.

"If, for some reason in the future, the RMI feels that 150 million dollars is not sufficient for compensation then the RMI Government has the right to petition the US Congress"