Foreign policy and defense
Foreign policy is central to the Marshall
Islands' relationship with the United States. Relations
between the two states are good, but not
straightforward. The relationship is regulated in the
1986 Compact of Free Association agreement.
The agreement states that the Marshall Islands is a
fully independent state but that the United States is
responsible for the islands' defense and national
security and commits itself to providing substantial
financial assistance. The United States has the right to
establish military bases on the islands as well as
prevent other nations from doing the same. The Marshall
Islands can terminate the agreement at any time,
provided this is approved in a referendum. The
Marshallese also have the right to stay, study and work
in the United States without special permission.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Marshall Islands for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
A renegotiation of the free association agreement was
finalized in the spring of 2003. It guarantees continued
financial support from the United States of America for
approximately $ 30 million annually until 2024, as well
as $ 7 million in annual contributions to some kind of
future fund for use after the cessation of US support.
In exchange for aid, Americans may retain the
military base at Kwajalein Atoll until 2066. The atoll
is also used as a target for US missile test firing,
often fired from California. Large parts of the atoll
have been taken over by US defense personnel. The
indigenous population has moved to the town of Ebeye,
from where many commutes to work on the base.
Compensation for the effects of the nuclear test
Relations with the United States are also marked by
the dispute over damages to those affected by the
nuclear weapons test blasts over the islands in the
1940s and 1950s (see Modern History). Some compensation
was guaranteed in the agreement on free association; a
damages fund of $ 150 million was included in the 1986
agreement and a special tribunal was established in 1988
to assess the compensation claims that came in.
The Marshall Islands have subsequently made
additional compensation as the extent of the damage
became known. In 1994, the United States published
documents showing that the residents of the islands
were intentionally exposed to radioactive radiation to
see if it caused any damage.
In principle, the Tribunal had already paid out the
amount it had at its disposal, when in 2000 it decided
to pay an additional $ 500 million in damages, money it
demanded the United States. In 2001, the country's
government asked the United States to allocate another $
2.7 billion to a fund to alleviate the consequences of
the tests. However, in 2005, the Bush administration
urged the US Congress not to pay more in damages to the
In 2007, the tribunal ruled that the people of
Rongelap Atoll would receive $ 1 billion in damages, a
claim that federal courts in the United States rejected.
By then, the tribunal had less than $ 1 million left.
New claims have been raised since then.
Votes against nine nuclear powers
In April 2014, the Marshall Islands government sued
the US state before a US court for violating the
non-proliferation agreement. The Marshall Islands wanted
to have a court order ordering the US to begin nuclear
weapons negotiations within a year. The Marshall Islands
filed a similar lawsuit before the International Court
of Justice of the International Court of Justice against
nine nuclear arrests. In February 2015, the US court
rejected the US claim on the grounds that the judiciary
cannot order the US government to negotiate with a
foreign state. The ICJ also rejected the Marshall
Islands' request in an October 2016 statement.
At the head of the judicial campaign against the
nuclear powers was the chief, environmental activist and
veteran politician Tony de Brum, who in 2015 received
the Alternative Nobel Prize for his efforts together
with the people of the Marshall Islands.
Assistance from Taiwan and Japan
Relations with China have long been good and the
Chinese announced plans for major investments in the
Marshall Islands in the mid-1990s. However, diplomatic
relations were interrupted when the Marshall Islands in
1998 recognized Taiwan as an independent state. In
recognition of this, Taiwan pledged to provide extensive
assistance to the Marshall Islands and make major
investments in the islands.
After the US and Taiwan, Japan provides the most
assistance to the Marshall Islands. Japan is supported
by the Marshall Islands within the International
Electoral Commission, where Japan is working to allow
ballot hunting for commercial purposes. Japan has
previously been accused of bribing the Marshall Islands
and other small nations with extensive assistance in
exchange for a vote for commercial whaling. The Marshall
Islands also support Japan in its quest to gain a
permanent place in the UN Security Council.
The Marshall Islands cooperate with the other island
nations in Oceania in a variety of areas. Among other
things, the Micronesian nations work together to
regulate catches of tuna in the area. In the UN context,
the countries are working to take powerful measures
against climate change.