KWAJALEIN: NO MORE DONE DEAL

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VIEWPOINT

Kwajalein Negotiation Commission

December 29, 2001 Honolulu, Hawai‘i

The idea that Kwajalein was a "done deal" seems to have gone out the door with former Foreign Minister Alvin Jacklick. This is according to Kwajalein Negotiation Commission (KNC) members who were in Honolulu in mid December for the Compact Talks between the Marshall Islands and the United States. The KNC Representatives reported that they were very pleased with they called the U.S. repudiation of Jacklick’s premature pronouncement on the extension of the U.S. military use of the Ronald Reagan Missile Testing Facility in Kwajalein. During both formal and informal discussions at the talks, the KNC representatives received assurances from Chief U.S. Negotiator Al Short, U.S. Ambassador Mike Senko, and other members of the U.S. team, that contrary to statements made on more than one previous occasion by Minister Jacklick, official U.S. policy never closed the door on discussing Kwajalein.

Prior to the formal talks, KNC members also had the opportunity to meet separately with RMI Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios and the RMI Compact Negotiation Commission. KNC members described the meeting with Foreign Minister Zackios as very productive. They reported that they were pleased with the Minister’s willingness to listen to their concerns about the future of Kwajalein and to ensure that provisions addressing those concerns are included in the text of the new Compact. The KNC admitted, however, that this was only the first step in a long and arduous process towards mutual respect and recognition between the CNC and the KNC.

According to KNC officials, Foreign Minister Zackios has assured them that the CNC will continue to communicate directly with the KNC on issues relating to Kwajalein and its inhabitants. The RMI and the KNC agree that Kwajalein and its importance to international peace and security remain the primary corner stones of the islands’ relationship with the United States. Both the CNC and the KNC gave assurances of their commitment to cooperate and work together to address outstanding mutual concerns pertaining to use of the base and its impact on the citizens of the atoll. At the meeting between the RMI and the KNC, the mantra was that if it’s good for Kwajalein, it’s good for all of the Marshall Islands.

The four Iroojlaplap, and other senior land title-holders of Kwajalein recently organized the KNC, to make certain that their interests are effectively articulated at the Compact Talks and preserved in the final agreement. Senator Christopher Loeak chairs the KNC Working Committee. Other KNC officers include Vice-chair Senator Jiba Kabua, Secretary Senator Justin deBrum, and Treasurer Lanny Kabua. Chairman Loeak and Irooj Michael Kabua represented the KNC at the Compact Talks. The organization, which is funded by voluntary Landowner contributions, includes among its members the four Paramount Traditional Leaders of Kwajalein Atoll, Iroojlaplap Imata Kabua, Iroojlaplap Anjua Loeak, Lerooj Neimata N. Kabua, and Lerooj Likwor L. Litokwa, an unprecedented alliance of the most powerful traditional leaders of the South, Central and Western Marshall Islands.

For additional information: Thomas Kijiner, Jr. Email: TKijiner@hawaii.rr.com

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