Made up of 1,200 islands located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Islands have played a critical component in the strategic and military U.S. presence in the region since World War II. But their recent election could have lead to a pro-Chinese leadership. The other key factor in the Marshall Islands is that the U.S. is refusing to engage and renegotiate as the “Compact of Free Association” agreement is expiring soon.

Preliminary Marshall Island Results are in

On November 30, the unofficial results were announced, with President Hilda Heine defeating Justin Lani. This is good news for the U.S. as her opposition favored closer ties to Beijing. But the results will not be finalized until December 15 after a two-week period for candidates to call for recounts or contest results.

If the results hold, it will be good for both the U.S. and Taiwan. As the Marshall Islands is one of four countries in the Pacific that recognize Taiwan. However, 10 Pacific nations recognize Taiwan as Beijing.

Compact of Free Association agreement Still an Issue

But this does not solve the problem of the expiring Compact of Free Association agreement. The U.S. has yet to move forward on Marshallese claims for environmental and health damage that were caused by dozens of nuclear tests carried out in the 1940s and 1950s. The lack of real movement to address the concerns of the Marshallese has some U.S. lawmakers concerned that China may be willing to step in, adding to the high tensions already happening between the U.S. and China.

The U.S. and the Marshall Islands have both benefited from the partnership established during World War II. The U.S. has developed military, intelligence, and aerospace facilities in the region close to China. And the U.S. has given jobs that have benefited the Marshall Islands’ economy. And many Marshallese have taken advantage of the ability to live and work in the U.S.

Ten Democratic and Republican members of the House of Representatives send a letter to the national security adviser, Jake Sulivan, about the U.S. combat talks with the Marshalls, Micronesia, and Palau in November.

They said, “It is distressing that these negotiations do not appear to be a priority – there have been no formal meetings since this Administration began – even as our international focus continues to shift to the Indo-Pacific.”

China Trying to Step in

And they believe this is weakening the U.S. in their position, and “China is all too ready to step in and provide the desperately needed infrastructure and climate resiliency investment that is sought by these long times partners.”

China is putting pressure on the U.S., with the Chinese Foreign Ministry saying that the U.S. should face up to its responsibility to restore the environmental damage it caused with its nuclear tests.

In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “We welcome the efforts to boost economic relations and improve the quality of life between the sides.”

In the 1980s, the U.S. agreed to pay $150 million for the damages caused. But many on the Marshall Islands believe that fell well short of addressing the nuclear outfall.

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

Various estimates have put the true cost of damage at about $3 billion. As of right now, the U.S. is stonewalled in their discussion to move forward.


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Amanda is a military spouse and veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career. She published her first book in 2019 titled Women of the Military, sharing the stories of 28 military women. In 2019 she also launched her podcast also titled Women of the Military. In 2020, she was published as a collaborative author in Brave Women Strong Faith. And in 2021, she launched a YouTube channel to help young women answer their questions about military life, Girl’s Guide to the Military. You can learn more about Amanda at her blog Airman to Mom.