The United States must strengthen its unique relationship with the Marshall Islands.

What’s the point?

The United States’ long history with the Marshall Islands demands that it continue to have a positive relationship.

The people of the Marshall Islands, of whom there are thousands in our area, have something to worry about.

Their concerns should be shared by American citizens.

Many Islanders have built new lives here in Arkansas, but whatever benefits they receive from relocating are people far from home. Residents of these areas migrated from their poverty-ravaged Western Pacific nation with a goal that all residents of Northwest Arkansas can enjoy: to create a better future for themselves and their families. A labor shortage for businesses in northwest Arkansas – much of the region’s huge poultry industry – is an opportunity for the Marshall Islands. The Marshallese Educational Initiative, a Springdale nonprofit, says 12,000 Marshallese live there, along with several thousand more elsewhere in northwest Arkansas and northeast Oklahoma.

Their homeland, approximately 2,400 miles west of Hawaii, is a blend of stunning beauty and rich culture overshadowed by economic hardship, existential threats from climate change, and health and ecological complications resulting in part from nuclear radiation. left over from large-scale US nuclear testing. between 1946 and 1958.

In an ocean that rises steadily, a few centimeters have made and will make the difference between habitability and submersion.

“We are losing more than a place to live. We are losing our place in the world,” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Doug Thompson, Benetick Maddison, deputy director of the Arkansas Coalition of the Marshallese in Springdale recently told.

This is perhaps a difficult situation for the native earthlings of Arkansas, many of whom now live and work not far from the places where they were born and raised. Perhaps the only possible similarity could be the Arkansans who abandoned their farms in the mid-20th century for the construction of man-made lakes such as Lake Beaver and Lake Ouachita. But even then, their condition and whole way of life did not face the threat of being consumed by the waters.

Rising sea levels may be the most serious threat to the future of the Marshall Islands, but the nation of about 54,000 people have other concerns, including the lingering effects of nuclear tests inflicted on them. islands after World War II, which had come under the control of the United States after the victory over Japan. The islands acquired their sovereignty in the late 1970s and then entered into a free association agreement with our country in 1986. The influence of the United States in this part of the world has been and continues to be reinforced by the installations American military there.

As part of the pact, the Marshall Islands received hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for environmental damage caused by the United States, including a concrete dome above a crater created by a nuclear explosion and then filled by US troops 95,000 cubic meters of radioactive debris. Nuclear history is replete with reports that U.S. officials are unaware of the dangers to the people of Marshals.

These days, U.S. officials say the dome – whose integrity is also threatened with damage from the rising ocean – is the responsibility of the Marshall Islands. As the Pact of Free Association is due for renewal in 2023, these issues, along with the islands’ strategic military importance, weigh heavily among ongoing questions of whether the United States has lived up to its responsibilities – legal and moral – to a nation she touched so dramatically in the 20th century.

Hilda Heine, now the former president of the islands, does not like the US position, which has been described as a refusal to engage on long-standing environmental and health issues.

“I’m like, how can he [the dome] be ours? ”she told the Los Angeles Times in 2019.“ We don’t want it. We didn’t build it. The garbage inside is not ours. It’s theirs. “

All of this is happening in a context of global influence. Particularly in the Pacific, where the influence of the United States is waning, China is ready to lend a hand. Overall, it does little good for the United States to make their friends and allies feel comfortable with the Red Dragon.

Rogers US Representative Steve Womack recently told the newspaper that the renewal of the Pact of Free Association with the Marshall Islands is crucial at a time when China seeks advantages in this part of the world.

“Where we log off and where we leave, other more infamous actors log on,” Womack said.

So what to do? Much about the relationship between the United States and the Marshall Islands is defined by the Pact of Free Association, but the need for the United States to live up to its legal and moral commitments to the Islanders and their country was forged in the glow from nuclear explosions. . And the fallout, which continues today.

We will stand alongside our neighbors here in Northwest Arkansas and urge the federal government to strengthen, not weaken, relations with the Marshall Islands. This means following up on assistance regarding the impacts of nuclear testing and the challenges the islands face in the face of climate change. Preventing China from further gaining a foothold in the region may seem like the icing on the cake, but we’d say it’s a pretty substantial part of the pie.

Our conclusion is this: The people of the Marshall Islands should never feel that the United States is not in their corner.

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