At the tail end of January, high-level negotiations saw the Marshall Islands sign a new bilateral treaty to cede strategic airspace and territorial waters to the US military for what could be a several-billion-dollar windfall.
Furthermore, reporting fromThe Washington Post revealed that everyone on the Marshallese negotiation team knew what was going on—the US may want to go to war with China in the future, and it’s willing to pay top dollar for Pacific territory.
“It’s because of China. We’re not naive,” Marshallese Foreign Minister Kitlang Kabua told the Post’s Pete McKenzie in an interview for an excellent feature piece on the topic.
McKenzie also heard from Peterson Jibas, a Marshallese senator and member of the country’s negotiating team, who told him “we’re caught between two big powers like a girl two boys are fighting over”.
It’s the third time the US has tried to renegotiate the treaty, and they came with a “drastically” increased offer the third time around after the Marshall Islands joined a number of other Pacific nations in declining to attend an embarrassing, high-level diplomatic summit at the White House, where the US dolled out huge amounts of cash for influence in a bald-faced effort to counter China.
Alibaba’s famous CEO Jack Ma once remarked that the US might try countering China by entering into business with other countries rather than spending trillions going to make war on or police them.
Underscoring Ma’s point has been a decade or more of soft power buildup by Beijing among the small island nations of the Pacific, which the US is now rushing to try and counter with billions in unallocated, undebated, unvoted on taxpayer dollars.
The Blue Continent
The talks with the Marshalls are part of three separate negotiations the US is conducting in the area between Australia and Hawai’i, along with Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
The current funding for treaties with the Marshall Islands and the FSM expires later this year. They are critical to the current plans for the US to compete/fight China on the Pacific battleground, and securing the territory for military purposes of the three island nations would give the Pentagon control of an area the size of the continental United States.
The new funding is to cover a 20-year period, and officials indicate it could be quadruple what the US was forced to pay for the treaty covering 2004 to 2023, during which time trust funds and grants to the nation of 18 coral atolls totaled $1 billion. The initial payout of the new agreement is $700 million immediately in a repurposed trust fund.
Part of the bargaining has been a long-standing anger the Marshallese have had with the US over the fallout from the thermonuclear weapons tests performed on their atolls during the Cold War, which have created a myriad of health complications including cancer and miscarriages among the locals as one might imagine.
Joseph Yun, the presidential special envoy from Palau negotiating their new deal with the US, declined to give a ballpark estimate of the bribe but told the AFP that China was the chief issue in negotiations and that climate change, the chief topic according to the Biden Administration, was second hand.
China recently made a suite of agreements with Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, which may include military agreements of a lesser severity than the outright occupation enjoyed by the US in the Marshalls since after World War II.
As for the Marshalls, they’ve come to learn that it pays to put your foot down. “We were much more wary, we were less naive, we put our foot down and made our demands,” Kabua told The Post. “We found that this is how we operate with the US, and we found it to be effective”. WaL
PICTURED ABOVE: Marshall Islands Foreign Affairs signing an agreement with the US delegation. PC: Island Business.