The Biden Administration will hold the first U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit on 28-29 September in order to deter China’s growing diplomatic influence in the region and find ways to rev up the US military machine in the region. Biden needs these island countries for military reasons. As the US tries to steer Pacific Island Countries away from China, we have to talk about the past, too. There is a shameful US past lingering and it involves the US nuclear tests and nuclear waste dumping in the region where harmful impacts live on.
This week White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that the Pacific Island Countries Summit will emphasize “history, values, and people-to-people ties” between the U.S. and Pacific island countries. It doesn’t get more hypocritical than this. Recalling the “history” part doesn’t serve the US well. The US would be better off staying away from recalling the relations between the US and the region.
Going back to history means that the US will again want a stronghold on these islands for military purposes, the way it did decades ago. The historical fallout from tests carried out over 12 years in the Marshall Islands have framed seven decades of US relations with the Pacific nation, as Patricia O’Brien argues.
Various UN bodies have examined the harmful effects of the US actions on The Marshal Islands, including a UN Special Rapporteur visit. The 2012 Report by the UN Special Rapporteur examined nuclear legacy on the Marshal Islands and the effect on human rights, and highlighted that 67 nuclear tests were conducted by the United States in the islands from 1946 to 1958. During most of that time, the Marshall Islands was a part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered by the United States. Fast-forward to today, the Biden administration is especially concerned about the “Solomon Islands’ Beijing tilt”, as Politico calls it.
Let’s recall that a year ago, in October 2021, the Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sovagare, addressed the UN General Assembly, worried about the US, UK and Australia’s bid to bring in nuclear submarines in the region. He expressed concern before the UN General Assembly and warned about nuclear pollution. The Prime Minister also recalled that the U.S has carried out 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958, which caused irreparable damages on inhabitants’ health and the ecological environment. The Solomon Islands and others are reasonably worried about the repeated US militarization of the region.
China’s position was similar and in alignment with the Solomon Islands. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the media back then that “many people may not know that the South Pacific region is the worst affected area by nuclear pollution.”
“The U.S has dumped nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean 63 times, causing a large raise in the incidence rate of cancer, leukemia and birth defects in newborns and other illnesses among those living in the Marshall Islands,” Hua noted, cited by the Pacific News Service. “The concentration of soil samples taken at the Bikini Atolls islands for plutonium-239 and -240 is 1,000 times higher than samples from Chernobyl, Ukraine and Fukushima, Japan,” she added.
Even nowadays, the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands holds more than 3.1 million cubic feet — or 35 Olympic-sized swimming pools — of U.S.-produced radioactive soil and debris, including lethal amounts of plutonium, Susanne Rust argues in the Los Angeles Times. Nowhere else has the United States saddled another country with so much of its nuclear waste, a product of its Cold War atomic testing program.
There is an obvious and natural alignment between China and the Solomon Islands on the issue. China was one of the first signatories of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, decades ago. The US is attempting to break these ties but it can’t erase the past.
“The Solomon Islands is committed to ensuring the Pacific region remains a peaceful region where its people can live free and worthwhile lives. We do not support any form of militarization in our region that could threaten regional and international peace and stability,” Prime Minister Sogavare said before the UN General Assembly.
The US is the author of horrible things in the region and now it actually expects to steer island countries away from China’s orbit. The U.S, UK and Australia bid to bring in nuclear submarines to the Pacific Ocean through the AUKUS agreement is aimed at curbing China’s activities in the Indo-Pacific region. The nuclear submarine project under AUKUS violates the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Biden Administration is speaking of “advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific” but the actual intentions are clear. Pacific Island Countries experience firsthand the revving up of the US military machine in the Pacific Ocean. The US needs these island countries’ acquiescence badly.
The international community should come together against the nuclear submarine project launched by the U. S, Britain and Australia. The past speaks volumes.
[Photo by the White House, Public domain]
*Iveta Cherneva is an Amazon best-selling author and political commentator. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.