Jan 4, 2008

Pacific Watch: Stakes High For Both US And Taiwan In Monday's Vote In Marshall Islands Parliament

The Marshall Islands Parliament will meet on Monday for the first time since the 19 November general election. Neither of the two major parties (the UDP and AKA) has a majority. So the next President will be determined by the votes of 5 independent MPs.

This vote, is about far more than who will be President. It could also determine the future shape of relations between the Marshall Islands and both Washington and Taipei. This dynamic is explored in the attached article from Pacific Magazine.

We repeat the key section:

...., at issue in Monday’s parliament election is the stability of relations with the United States and Taiwan, the country¹s two major aid donors.

The Note government is strongly pro-U.S. But opposition leaders are angry about many provisions of the Compact of Free Association with the U.S., including the details of a long-term deal for American use of the missile testing range at Kwajalein that the Notegovernment approved five years ago. AKA Chairman Senator Christopher Loeak said that an urgent priority for his party when it is elected is to address these problems with the U.S. The Kwajalein missile range issue has been largely ignored by the Note administration.

Both Tomeing and Kwajalein paramount chief Imata Kabua, a former president who wields significant power in the AKA, have stated unequivocally they want to cut ties with Taiwan in favor of China, though other members of the party say they disagree on the issue. This year marks the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Taipei, with Taiwan emerging as the second largest aid donor behind the U.S., providing an estimated $15 million in funding and services annually.