11 March 2012

Marshall Islands criticizes U.S. over nuclear compensation

‘Exploding epidemic of cancer cases,’ 
$2 billion 
in unpaid claims.

By Giff Johnson
Marianas Variety

Marshall Islanders accused the United States government of refusing to provide adequate nuclear test compensation on the 58th anniversary of the largest American hydrogen bomb test that exposed thousands of islanders to radioactive fallout.

Islanders marked the national holiday in the Marshall Islands for March 1 with a candlelight vigil for those who suffered and died as a result of the 67 U.S. tests at Bikini and Enewetak.

U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Martha Campbell told the event in Majuro Thursday evening that "the United States has provided nearly $600 million in compensation and assistance to the Republic of the Marshall Islands to help the affected communities overcome the effects of nuclear testing," and noted that the U.S. and Marshall Islands governments had agreed to "a full and final settlement of all nuclear-related claims" in 1983.

But Foreign Minister Phillip Muller called on the United States to pay the more than $2 billion in unpaid awards made by a Nuclear Claims Tribunal that exhausted its U.S. government-provided funding.

"Today we are witnessing an exploding epidemic of cancer cases," said Charles Domnick, an islander who was 12 years old and living on an island about 400 miles downwind when the U.S. detonated Bravo, a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb test at Bikini. "Cancers, birth anomalies and other radiogenic diseases make a compelling argument for the United States to reopen the nuclear issue," Domnick said. "But because our population is limited, the United States takes the position these numbers are statistically insignificant and that we have in fact received compensation for all damages past, present and future."

Domnick criticized the settlement agreement reached nearly 30 years ago as unfair to the Marshall Islands. "What kind of a champion of democracy would have the callousness to demand from people it injures forgiveness for all future liabilities?" he said.

Muller said the Marshall Islands was "insulted" that the U.S. government chose March 1 as the date to announce a missile test launch between Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. He said it was "an unfortunate date" for the U.S. to schedule a Minuteman missile test. The U.S. announced the test last week, but on Wednesday cancelled the launch.

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