Some fear that China win from the American splash with Marshall Islands

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The tiny Marshall Islands have been a staunch US ally for decades. To be location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has made it is key strategic outpost for The United States military.

But die loyalty is tested during a dispute with Washington over the terms of are “Compact” of Free Association” Agreement, die expires soon. The US refuses the Marshallese in to switch on claims for environmental and health damage caused by tens of nuclear tests die it performed out in the 1940s and 1950s, including a massive thermonuclear explosion on Bikini Atoll.

The dispute has caused some US lawmakers to fear that China would be willing to do so step in the breach, to add to a bruise competition for geopolitical dominance between the two superpowers.

Since World War II, the US has dealt with the Marshall Islands, together met with Micronesia and Palau, a lot like territories. In the Marshall Islands, the US has: developed military, intelligence and space facilities in An region where china in it is special active.

In turn, VS money and jobs have benefited the Marshall Islands economy. And many Marshallese have benefited from this of their ability until live and work in The United States, 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, over the American compact conversations with the Marshalls, Micronesia and Palau.

“It is alarming that these negotiations do not appear to be a priority – there have been no formal meetings since the begin of this government – ​​even if our international the focus continues to shift to the Indo-Pacific,” they wrote.

Lawmakers said the delays could affect the U.S in confused in a weaker position, and “China is all too willing to step in and provide much-needed investment in infrastructure and climate resilience that these long-term partners are looking for.”

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the US should face up to its responsibility to repair the environmental damage die the caused with are nuclear tests. It said China was willing to participate with the Marshall Islands and other islands in the Pacific ocean on the base of mutual respect and cooperation under the “One China Principle”, in of which Taiwan is seen as part of China.

“We welcome efforts to boost economic relations and improve quality of life between the parties,” said the ministry in a statement.

China has been steadily poaching allies from Taiwan in the Pacific Ocean, including Kiribati and the Solomon Islands in 2019. Just this week, angry protesters in the Solomons set fire to buildings and looted stores in unrest die some have linked to China switch.

James Matayoshi, the mayor of Rongelap Atoll on the Marshall Islands, he said and hundreds of others have remained evicted from their atolls since the nuclear tests and want for new life in to blow. He said officials have been talking with potential investors from Asia, after a previous proposal from a Chinese-Marshallese businessman fell through.

“It would be a business transaction. we do not advocate for war of some superpower influence,” said Matayoshi. “But we want in be able to live in our backyard, and enjoy live here.”

Like many others on the Marshall Islands, Matayoshi believes an American settlement of $150 million agreed in the 80s came too short of address the nuclear legacy. He said it’s too late mother was pregnant at the time of one huge nuclear explosion and was exposed to radiation die the equivalent was of 25,000 X-rays for stillbirth baby.

But the position of the US has remained static for more than 20 years, the last time the compact came up for renegotiation. The US maintains that nuclear compensation was treated with in An “full and final settlement” and cannot be reopened.

Marshallese Senator David Paul — who is on the negotiating committee of the islands and also represents Kwajalein Atoll, that is home to a big US military base – said persistently high cancer rates and the displacement of people remain huge problems.

“Everyone knows that the negotiations at the time were not fair of were fair,” said Paul. “If you look at the total cost of property damage and ongoing health problems to date, it’s a drop in the bucket. It’s an insult.”

Different estimates put the true cost of the damage at about $3 billion, including: for repairs to a massive nuclear waste facility die known as the Cactus Dome and die toxic waste according to environmental activists in the ocean is leaking.

A report to Congress last year from the US Department of Energy said the dome contains over 100,000 cubic yards (76,000 cubic meters) of radioactively contaminated soil and debris, but the structure was not in any immediate danger of to fail. The report concluded that contaminated groundwater flowing under the structure had no measurable impact on the environment.

like it did in previous compact negotiations, the US has blocked the discussions on the nuclear legacy, something that US officials recognize.

“We know that’s important, but there’s a full and final settlement, and both parties agreed in’ said a senior U.S official who was not authorized to in to discuss publicly over the issue and spoke on condition of anonymity. “So that issue is just not subject to reopening. But we are still best prepared to work with the (marshal) on the broader issues die be important for us And that’s what we hope to do.”

The US State Department said the Indo-Pacific is central in abroad of the US policy.

“We prioritize achieving success in the negotiations met regarding the Compacts with the Freely Associated States as a regional foreigner policy purpose,” the department said.

the frustrations of the Marshallese were clear in sent a letter last month through minister of Foreign Affairs Casten Nemra to Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee oversight and investigations panel.

“The concerned State and Interior Ministry officials were unwilling to discuss an agenda for the talks and tried to limit the discussion to their own limited proposals,” Nemra wrote. “The Nuclear” issue was clear one reason. All problems die raised by the Marshall Islands were: met with allegations that they did not have the authority to discuss the matters without any indication that they would strive to do so.”

sen. Paul said the US approach needs to change.

“I believe that the US has a legal and moral obligation to sure they clean up this rubble,” said Paul. “We want to make sure we get a better deal this time. As they say, the third time is a charm.”

____

Lee reported from Washington.

Read More: World News

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