Some fear China could win from US spat with Marshall Islands

by Dec 2, 2021Bocaítos0 comments

The Associated Press is reporting on the potential pitfalls of the United States’ negligent attitude with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, an independent country in a Compact of Free Association with the US. After leaving the door open for claims on environmental and health damage to the islands after nuclear tests, the US is refusing to engage on the topic, as the compact expires and is up for renewal. This conversation is relevant to the territories as some want to pursue a similar political status for places like Puerto Rico.

“For decades, the tiny Marshall Islands has been a stalwart American ally. Its location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has made it a key strategic outpost for the U.S. military.

But that loyalty is being tested amid a dispute with Washington over the terms of its “Compact of Free Association” agreement, which expires soon. The U.S. is refusing to engage the Marshallese on claims for environmental and health damage caused by dozens of nuclear tests it carried out in the 1940s and ’50s, including a huge thermonuclear blast on Bikini Atoll.

The dispute has some U.S. lawmakers worried that China might be willing to step into the breach, adding to a bruising competition for geopolitical dominance between the two superpowers.

Since World War II, the U.S. has treated the Marshall Islands, along with Micronesia and Palau, much like territories. On the Marshall Islands, the U.S. has developed military, intelligence and aerospace facilities in a region where China is particularly active.

In turn, U.S. money and jobs have benefited the Marshall Islands’ economy. And many Marshallese have taken advantage of their ability to live and work in the U.S., moving in the thousands to Arkansas, Hawaii and Oklahoma.

But this month, 10 Democratic and Republican members of the House of Representatives wrote to President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, about the U.S. compact talks with the Marshalls, Micronesia and Palau.”

The current situation serves to highlight potential scenarios under an independent but freely associated status for the territories. Without political power in the US, the countries lack any proper influence and are only dependent on their strategic value amidst the tensions with China to protect their interests. Due to the imbalanced relationship, even after achieving sovereignty, they are at the mercy of a government in which they have no power.