The bilateral relationship between the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the United States of America is based on a unique and historical friendship. As nations with common commitments to world peace and security, the Marshall Islands and the U.S. initiated a strategic relationship in the aftermath of World War II. This partnership has evolved from the Trusteeship and the Cold War period of nuclear weapons testing to a modern relationship based on a shared commitment to preserve democratic principles.

World War II

The U.S. and the Marshall Islands first became allies during World War II. During the War, many Marshallese served as scouts helping the U.S. troops. Up to this day, the RMI is still a strong ally of the US, often voting along with the US on numerous issues at the United Nations, even when its other allies don’t.  For many years, the islands were governed by the U.S. Navy. Later, this function was transferred to the U.S. Department of Interior. 

Trust Territory

Following the WWII, the United Nations entrusted the U.S. Government with administering the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI). The Strategic Trusteeship extended across six districts: the Marianas, Palau, Yap, Kosrae, Truk, Pohnpei, and the Marshall Islands. Collectively, they were governed by a High Commissioner and the Congress of Micronesia.

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Testing Program

Because of its geographical isolation from world powers and metropolitan areas, the U.S. Government used its strategic Trust Territory to conduct atomic and thermonuclear weapons tests. From 1946 -1958, the U.S. tested 67 weapons on the land, in the air, and in the ocean areas surrounding the Marshall Islands. Forty three (43) of those tests were conducted on Enewetak Atoll which to this day houses tons of nuclear waste materials in a concrete encased tomb.  The world’s first atomic bomb was tested at Bikini atoll on March 1, 1954.  It was 1000 times more powerful than each of the bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII, and resulted in whole islands dissipating or disappearing completely from the lagoon. Decades later, the Marshallese people still confront medical problems, environmental contamination, displacement, and social upheaval. 

The Compact of Free Association

The Compact of Free Association between the RMI and the US was signed and entered into force in 1986.  This Agreement establishes and governs the relationship of free association between the two countries.  The Compact provides economic assistance and US defense of the islands in exchange for continued US defense rights over the islands.  The US Army operates a military installation on Kwajalein Atoll which is vital to the US Missile Defense Program.  Under the Compact agreement, citizens of the RMI can live and work in the US visa free, and serve in the US Military.  Today Marshallese citizens living in the US are responsible, contributing members of their local communities and the RMI has one of the highest percentage (per capita) of citizens volunteering in the US Armed Forces.

The RMI and the US have a long history of being allies and friends. As with any friendship, it will continue as long as there is mutual respect and understanding. What started out as a strategic alliance is now a true and lasting relationship based on mutual respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights.

Download the entire Compact here: Compact of Free Association, as amended