U.S. REJECTS MARSHALL ISLANDS MISSILE RANGE RENT HIKE

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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (July 23, 2002 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---The United States of America has rejected a proposal from landowners at the Kwajalein missile defense testing range for US$ 2 billion in exchange for its use for another 50 years.

State Department negotiator Albert Short told Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios in a letter: "(the) U.S. does not consider the landowner monetary request to be a viable basis for negotiations."

More than 4,000 miles west of California, the U.S. Army’s Kwajalein missile range is playing a central role in the Bush administration’s accelerated push for a deployable missile defense system.

Although the landowners want a long-term extension of the lease that is set to expire in 2016, they have rejected the American financial offer.

They said it is grossly inadequate to address festering social and health conditions on Ebeye Island.

This is where 10,000 Marshall Islanders -- many of whom work at the adjacent missile range -- live crowded on just 80 acres of land.

The letter from Short summarized recent discussions he held with Zackios and Robert Muller, executive director of Compact of Free Association negotiations for the Marshall Islands.

Under an agreement from the early 1980s, Kwajalein landowners received about US$ 11.2 million a year in rental payments. They want a trust fund established that would yield annual rental payments of US$ 100 million.

Short recently said that the U.S. Defense Department is interested to extend its control of the Kwajalein missile range to 2043.

But it is not willing to pay more than the current rental rate.

While the USA rejected the landowners’ nearly $2 billion request, Short did not rule it all out completely.

He said there are aspects of the landowner proposal, "including the concept of a trust fund to build a resource base for future contingencies, that we think can be effective."

The landowners and the Marshall Islands Government are proposing that a trust fund be established with American rental payments.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ Marianas Variety.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

 

MARSHALL ISLANDS GOVERNMENT OPPOSES KWAJALEIN NEGOTIATION COMMISSION PHILOSOPHY OF CONFRONTATION WITH U.S.

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (July 12, 2002 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios, in a June 18 letter to Senator Chris Loeak of the Kwajalein Negotiation Commission, stated the Marshall Islands government’s view of the Compact talks with the U.S.

"Like the KNC, it is our view that we should seek the very best possible deal that we can negotiate in respect to the use of Kwajalein and the extension of the Military Use and Operating Rights Agreement," Zackios said.

The RMI believes that it is important to be "making more of an effort to encourage the continuous use of Kwajalein with an extension of hospitality rather than confronting the U.S."

He said the RMI "should be working with the U.S. as true allies to assure an enduring and stable relationship.

"The present KNC proposal on the one hand asks for a continuous relationship and then tries to impose punitive substantial up-front payments."

Zackios said there is an historic opportunity "to make things better at Kwajalein and to do so in a manner that will make the U.S. and the RMI, inclusive of the Kwajalein landowners, proud instead of continuing to hurl accusatory statements at each other."

In order to accomplish this, however, "there must be give and take from all sides with a fundamental commitment by the RMI and Kwajalein landowners that we desire to make the U.S. feel welcome, free from the risk of disruption and constant negative press in order to encourage the U.S. to make substantial long-term investments at Kwajalein, and a genuine appreciation and understanding that we possess the means to improve our state of affairs," Zackios said.

This philosophy assumes that the interests of both the U.S. and the Marshall Islands, which includes the landowners, come together and each is willing to do their part, he added.

But if the KNC’s approach is to continue "to pursue these matters in a deliberately antagonistic and unrealistic approach to the future use of Kwajalein, then I must sadly state that the fundamental position of the RMI and KNC are at odds."

 

KWAJALEIN NEGOTIATION COMMISSION DUMBFOUNDED BY MARSHALL ISLANDS GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (July 12, 2002 -- The Marshall Islands Journal)---The RMI government is rewarding cooperation and conciliation with a deliberately antagonistic approach, Kwajalein Negotiation Commission chairman Senator Chris Loeak told President Kessai Note in a letter on June 19.

"We are utterly dumbfounded" by the RMI response, he said.

The KNC stated just days before the letter from Minister Gerald Zackios that it was appreciative of the discussions with the RMI, and that it was committed to the success of these negotiations. KNC has stated its interest to "work cooperatively" with the RMI and to do "our utmost to help present a united front in negotiations with the United States," Loeak said.

Loeak said that the RMI called KNC requests "unrealistic and impractical" but then acknowledged the justice of the KNC requests.

"Your reply reveals not that our requests are ‘unrealistic and impractical," but rather that you have been sadly lacking in representing the interest of the people of Kwajalein as well as the people of the Marshall Islands in this negotiation," Loeak said.

"You may be satisfied with the U.S. government’s offer and of the plight of the people of Ebeye. We are not."

Loeak said that being a friend and ally of the U.S. "does not require an attitude of meek submissiveness or the acceptance of inequity and economic injustice."

He again asked the RMI to transmit the KNC proposal to the U.S. government. "Having made this request, however, we harbor no illusions as to the likely success of our proposal, given the total lack of support of your government for our efforts."

Its likely rejection by the U.S. "will be the responsibility of your government and your intransigent refusal to cooperate in this matter."

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: [email protected]  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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