Marshall Islands

Nuclear-weapon-free state

Voted in favour of adopting TPNW

Has not yet joined TPNW

The Marshall Islands has not yet signed or ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 

The Marshall Islands participated in the negotiation of the treaty at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and voted in favour of its adoption.

From 1946 to 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear test explosions in the Marshall Islands, leaving a legacy of devastating environmental and health problems.

In an address to the United Nations in September 2017, the minister for foreign affairs of the Marshall Islands, John Silk, said that his country is committed to “a close and inclusive examination” of its participation in the treaty, “listening closely to our stakeholders and affected communities, and also taking into account any possible implications on our mutual security relationships”.

The Marshall Islands, which is in a “compact of free association” with the United States, allows the US military to test nuclear-capable inter-continental ballistic missiles in its territory, at Kwajalein atoll. This practice is considered incompatible with the treaty’s prohibition on assisting the development of nuclear weapons.

Silk said in November 2018 that the government’s internal consultations have prompted it to take more time in considering whether to become a state party to the treaty.

The Marshall Islands abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution in 2019 that welcomed the adoption of the treaty and called upon “all states that have not yet done so to sign, ratify, accept, approve, or accede to the treaty at the earliest possible date”.

In its first statement to the negotiating conference, the Marshall Islands said that it is “imperative to properly address the rights of survivors of nuclear detonation, and the role and responsibility of the international community towards them”.

In 2016, the Marshall Islands was an additional co-sponsor of the UN General Assembly resolution that established the formal mandate for states to commence the negotiations in 2017 on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

The Marshall Islands was among 127 states that endorsed a “humanitarian pledge” in 2015–16 to cooperate “in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit, and eliminate nuclear weapons”. The pledge was instrumental in building momentum and support for convening the negotiations.