The Marshall Islands, along with Micronesia and Palau, have signed a new economic assistance agreement with the United States.
This agreement reinforces their close ties with the US and comes at a time of heightened competition between the US and China in the western Pacific region. The compacts of free association allow the US military access to the ocean territories of these island nations in exchange for funding and the right for their citizens to live and work in the US. While Palau and Micronesia easily renewed their agreements earlier this year, negotiations between the Marshall Islands and the US were more challenging due to the legacy of US nuclear testing in the 1940s and 1950s. However, the signing of the renewed Compact of Free Association between the US and the Marshall Islands is seen as critical for maintaining a free and open Pacific based on shared values.
The signing of the new economic assistance agreement between the Marshall Islands and the US underscores Washington’s commitment to the Pacific region amidst China’s increasing influence in Pacific Island states. Analysts highlight that the outcome of the negotiations with the compact states would serve as an important signal of Washington’s dedication to the region. Over a span of 20 years, all three countries combined will receive a substantial increase of US$7.1 billion, subject to Congressional approval. These agreements are crucial not only for the military’s power projection in the Pacific and East Asia but also for fostering a continued free and open Pacific based on shared values. The US State Department is yet to comment on the matter.