The Marshall Islands is expected to soon enter into a renewed economic and security cooperation agreement with the U.S, a boon for American efforts to counter growing Chinese influence in the Pacific.
The U.S provides economic and security assistance to the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau under a series of agreements called the Compacts of Free Association. The U.S and the Marshall Islands have been in talks to renew their compact, now set to expire at the end of September.
The Marshall Islands’ parliament has adopted the resolution to accept the agreement and is expected to certify it soon. The U.S compacts with Micronesia and Palau have already been renewed.
These agreements have played a key role in bolstering American military capabilities. The Marshall Islands’ Kwajalein Atoll is home to a U.S ballistic missile test site and is an important site for American space-related initiatives. It also hosts one of four dedicated ground antennas used by the GPS navigation system, according to the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA).
The Marshall Islands had sought additional support from the U.S. as part of the renewal negotiations, citing inadequate compensation for past American nuclear weapons tests at the Bikini Atoll.
The Marshall Islands “desires to continue its free association with the United States, but the United States must realise that the Marshallese people require that the nuclear issue be addressed,” Marshall Islands President David Kabua told the United Nations General Assembly on 20 September.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration in March requested US$7.1 billion over 20 years to fund economic assistance and continued postal services in the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.
The U.S is ramping up its charm offensive in the Pacific in response to the growing Chinese presence. It signed a defense cooperation agreement in May with Papua New Guinea.
The U.S is also backing an undersea cable project that would connect American Samoa with fellow U.S territory Guam and extend to up to 12 more Pacific island nations.
Undersea cables carry 99 percent of transoceanic communications. Concerns have arisen about security risks such as destruction of the cables themselves and the interception of data. On Monday, the White House announced an initial investment of up to US$3 million for a feasibility study on the Pacific undersea cable project.
SOURCE: US NEWS/PACNEWS