Marshall Islands urges US to better address climate change and its nuclear legacy
UNITED NATIONS – The President of the Marshall Islands on Tuesday welcomed what he called progress towards a new Association Agreement with the United States, but said better coping with the crisis was vital. legacy of US nuclear testing and climate change.
President David Kabua made the remarks at the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he also issued a broader call for help and action to tackle climate change, which his nation is facing. low-lying Pacific island is particularly vulnerable.
The Marshall Islands and other Pacific island states, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau signed agreements known as compacts with the United States in the late 1980s that give the United States responsibility for defense and the right to military bases in exchange for economic support.
The pacts, which expire in 2023, and 2024 in the case of Palau, are being renegotiated, and experts and former US officials warn that states could turn to Washington’s geostrategic rival, China, in if the talks break down.
“While we have common goals and a strong partnership with the United States of America, we also have serious development challenges and critical needs,” Kabua said.
“We welcome recent progress with the United States of America toward a renewed Covenant of Free Association and with it a Targeted Trust Fund,” he said.
However, he added: “It is vital that the legacy and contemporary challenges of nuclear impact testing are better addressed, that climate change is addressed with the urgency and commitment it deserves, and that our voice as an equal partner is strengthened.
Kabua said Washington was emphasizing its renewed engagement with the Pacific islands and added: “It is essential for all of us to ensure that words are followed by deeds.”
The Marshall Islands are made up of approximately 30 remote tropical atolls between Australia and Hawaii. Their average elevation is about 6.5 feet above sea level and tidal waves regularly flood the land with increasing ferocity.
The islanders are also still plagued by the health and environmental effects of the 67 US nuclear tests conducted from 1946 to 1958, including “Castle Bravo” at Bikini Atoll in 1954 – the largest US bomb ever exploded.
Kabua sharply criticized China, pointing to human rights issues in his Xinjiang region and its military pressure on China’s self-ruled and claimed Taiwan, while calling on the United Nations to “better welcome Taiwan and its people into our global family”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to host a meeting Thursday on the sidelines of the General Assembly aimed at better coordinating aid to the Pacific island region in the face of Chinese competition.