Pacific News Minute: Marshall Islands, US officials hope to complete COFA negotiations by 2023
United States and Marshall Islands officials say they hope to complete negotiations to renew an economic and security treaty by the end of this year.
The Marshall Islands is part of a Compact of Free Association agreement with the U.S., which also includes its neighbors the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau. The three island nations cover an area in the western Pacific larger than the continental U.S.
Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S conducted nearly 70 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. The testing left several islands uninhabitable due to high radiation levels. It continues to cause health problems for many islanders.
The Island Times reports COFA gives the U.S. control of defense in exchange for access to grants and federal programs ranging from education, health and postal services.
That adds up to more than $100 million this fiscal year.
The current COFA expires at the end of 2023.
Ambassador Joseph Yun is President Biden’s special envoy for Compact negotiations. Yun says he’s optimistic the talks will be completed in a timely manner.
Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Kitlang Kabua used the words “kinship” and “cordial” to describe the environment of the negotiations.
They both say they hope to sign a memorandum of understanding before the end of September.
The next round of talks is scheduled to be held in Washington late next month.