18 Sep 2013

Marshall Islands minister unhappy with John Key nuclear response

1:33 pm on 18 September 2013

A Marshall Islands cabinet minister says comments made by the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, about its nuclear issues came across as insensitive and off-hand.

At the Pacific Islands Forum in Majuro earlier this month, leaders endorsed a UN Special Rapporteur's report on the nuclear tests the US conducted in the country from 1946 to 1958.

It calls on the US government to pay more than two billion US dollars in outstanding payments due to the test victims.

The US says it considers the matter settled, and in response John Key says further compensation is a bilateral matter to be settled between the two countries.

The minister in assistance to the President of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum, says John Key was a signatory to the declaration and his comment is strange.

"Of course it's a bilateral matter, but it's also a multi-lateral matter that we have engaged support from the Pacific region and the rest of the world to pursue. It was insensitive, it was not good form. It's not a mystery to the Pacific what happened here during the testing period. We consider it an open wound that needs to be healed."

Tony de Brum says John Keys comment seemed off-hand and as if he thought New Zealand should not be involved at all.