Sunday, July 22, 2007

US Missile Testing in the Marshalls

Islanders block US missile testing range
By Pacific correspondent Campbell Cooney

Posted Sun Jun 24, 2007 6:00pm AEST

Local officials say the future of a United States missile testing range in the western Pacific is in doubt because Marshall Islands land owners refuse to accept rent offered by the US.

Four years ago the US and Marshall Islands governments signed a deal allowing use of the range until 2086.

The Reagan Test Site is used as a target for ballistic missiles launched in the US and elsewhere.

But the deal relies on traditional land owners agreeing to continue renting the site to the US.

They are saying they will not accept another 70 years of failing services and poor conditions on Ebeye Island, which is home to 12,000 people.

Most of the locals working on the range live on the island on a third of a square kilometre - an area labelled "the slum of the Pacific".

The current land use agreement expires in 2016, and the US has confirmed it wants to stay beyond that date.

The US ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Clyde Bishop, says he is confident the differences will be sorted out.

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