The Pacific leaders called on Washington to remove radioactive contaminants left by its nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, saying the US has a ‘special responsibility’ on the issue.
A meeting of the 15-nation Pacific Island Forum (PIF) in the Cook Islands issued a communiqué on Thursday saying the United States, which tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshalls from 1946-1958, should clean up nuclear mess.
The communiqué, endorsed by the forum's leaders, said radioactive contaminants were still present in the Marshalls and Washington should "live up to its full obligations" to remove them and compensate affected populations.
"(There is) a special responsibility by the United States of America towards the people of the Marshall Islands, who have been and continue to be, adversely affected as a direct result of nuclear weapons tests," it said.
Pacific leaders issued the communiqué as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later Thursday arrived in the Cook Islands, a nation of 11,000 people with 15 islands and the recipient of significant Chinese aid, a move considered by many pundits to be aimed at countering China’s growing influence in the region.
The US secretary of state attended the regional summit, started on August 27 and hosted by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), a group consisting of resource-rich Papua New Guinea and other small island states, along with Australia and New Zealand.
Commentators say the trip is aimed at curbing China’s growing influence among the region’s small island nations.
Former New Zealand diplomat Michael Powles said the island states dropped off Washington’s radar many years ago as China had diplomatic ties with them.