24 Apr 2009

US signals Kwajalein's importance for continued support for Marshalls

2:33 pm on 24 April 2009

The outgoing US ambassador to the Marshall Islands has highlighted the significance of the US base at Kwajalein for the relationship with the Marshall Islands.

Clyde Bishop says the approval of long-term US use of the missile testing range is critical to the survival of the treaty which provides the Marshalls with nearly two-thirds of its annual national budget.

The Marshall Islands government has been given an additional five years to resolve a stalemate with landowners who oppose an agreement giving the U.S. use of the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll until 2066.

Mr Bishop says if there is no sign of progress, the US government could reassess its position sooner.

The use of Kwajalein is a key part of a Compact of Free Association which provides the Marshall Islands with about 70 million US dollars a year through 2023 and gives Marshall Islanders visa-free access to the United States.