Marshall Islands

Nuclear-weapon-free state

Has not yet joined the TPNW

Summary

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

 

National position

The Marshall Islands has consistently abstained from voting on an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that welcomes the adoption of the TPNW and calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to it “at the earliest possible date”.

In an address to the United Nations in September 2017, the then-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 TPNW, “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 TPNW’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.

In September 2021, the Marshall Islands announced that it is “still studying” the TPNW and plans to participate in the meetings of states parties as an observer, in particular, “to see what concrete victim assistance provisions actually come forward by states parties and if they are at scale”.

 

Nuclear testing

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.

The United States detonates a nuclear weapon at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1952. Photo: US government

 

TPNW negotiations

The Marshall Islands participated in the negotiation of the TPNW at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and was among 122 states that voted in favour of its adoption.

In its first statement to the negotiating conference, it 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 its closing statement, it said: “In light of our experience, it is our fervent hope that such weapons of mass destruction shall never again be tested or unleashed, and all nuclear-armed nations will have the necessary political will and empathy to disarm.”

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

Amatlain E. Kabua, the permanent representative of the Marshall Islands to the United Nations, speaks at a side event during the TPNW negotiations in 2017. Photo: ICAN

ICAN campaigner Abacca Anjain-Maddison of the Marshall Islands speaks in New York on 7 July 2017, the final day of the TPNW negotiations. Photo: ICAN

 

Before the negotiations

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 TPNW negotiations.

Tony deBrum, the then-minister of foreign affairs of the Marshall Islands, speaks at an ICAN forum in Vienna in December 2014. Photo: ICAN

Nuclear-weapon-free state

Has not yet joined the TPNW

[HIGHLIGHTS]

Summary

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

 

National position

The Marshall Islands has consistently abstained from voting on an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that welcomes the adoption of the TPNW and calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to it “at the earliest possible date”.

In an address to the United Nations in September 2017, the then-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 TPNW, “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 TPNW’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.

In September 2021, the Marshall Islands announced that it is “still studying” the TPNW and plans to participate in the meetings of states parties as an observer, in particular, “to see what concrete victim assistance provisions actually come forward by states parties and if they are at scale”.

 

Nuclear testing

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.

The United States detonates a nuclear weapon at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1952. Photo: US government

 

TPNW negotiations

The Marshall Islands participated in the negotiation of the TPNW at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and was among 122 states that voted in favour of its adoption.

In its first statement to the negotiating conference, it 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 its closing statement, it said: “In light of our experience, it is our fervent hope that such weapons of mass destruction shall never again be tested or unleashed, and all nuclear-armed nations will have the necessary political will and empathy to disarm.”

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

Amatlain E. Kabua, the permanent representative of the Marshall Islands to the United Nations, speaks at a side event during the TPNW negotiations in 2017. Photo: ICAN

ICAN campaigner Abacca Anjain-Maddison of the Marshall Islands speaks in New York on 7 July 2017, the final day of the TPNW negotiations. Photo: ICAN

 

Before the negotiations

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 TPNW negotiations.

Tony deBrum, the then-minister of foreign affairs of the Marshall Islands, speaks at an ICAN forum in Vienna in December 2014. Photo: ICAN

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