9 May 2011

Marshall Islanders eye US$32m after agreeing to another 50 years for American missile range

6:42 am on 9 May 2011

Marshall Islanders have ended an eight-year stalemate and agreed to allow the United States a run its defence base there for another 50 years.

The deal, once signed will result in the release of US$32 million dollars to the landowners of Kwajalein Atoll.

The atoll has been the Pentagon's primary site for testing missile defence technology since the early 1960s.

But since 2003, landowners led by former President Imata Kabua said the U.S. rent offer of $15 million annually was inadequate and demanded $19 million.

Landowners have repeatedly criticised the base agreement with the U.S. because they say it is doing nothing to address festering health, sanitation and utility problems on Ebeye, an overcrowded island next to the U.S. Army base headquarters.

About 12,000 Marshall Islanders live on Ebeye in slum conditions on 32.4 hectares of land.

The agreement is expected to be signed on Tuesday.