12 Oct 2009

Marshall's chief taking government to court over treaty with US

10:45 am on 12 October 2009

A traditional chief in the Marshall Islands is taking the Government to court over a treaty that gives the United States control of a United States missile testing range after 2016.

Former Marshall Islands President Imata Kabua says the Marshall Islands government illegally took the lands at Kwajalein Atoll and gave them to the United States of America.

The Compact of Free Association approved by the two governments in 2003 gave the US the use of the atoll first from 2016 to 2023, and then to 2066.

Kwajalein has been a center of U.S. anti-missile defense testing, and is the target for long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles fired from California.

Our Correspondent Giff Johnson says the sticking point is money.

"There really hasn't been a particularly anti-US component to this. What it is is the landowners demanded 19 million a year, and the agreement the two governments signed provides 15 million a year for rental of the Kwajalein missile range. Kabua's younger brother, who is also a ranking chief for Kwajalein and a senator in the Parliament, he said if the US came across with 19 million, they could have Kwajalein forever."