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Foreign Relations: Kwajalein Atoll Is the Key U.S. Defense Interest in Two Micronesian Nations

GAO-02-119 Published: Jan 22, 2002. Publicly Released: Jan 22, 2002.
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The Compact of Free Association continues a defense arrangement that has existed between the United States and two Pacific island nations--Micronesia and the Marshall Islands--since the end of World War II. The United States has exercised only one of the four primary defense provisions contained in the Compact. That provision grants the United States the right to use part of the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to test nuclear missiles and space tracking operations. The United States has never been required to fulfill defense responsibilities under the other three defense provisions contained in the Compact. The Defense Department considers Kwajalein Atoll an important asset that would be costly and difficult to replicate. Ongoing negotiations over the Compact are following a course that would preserve the existing defense and security relationship between the United States and each of these nations.

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