Do people of RMI [or the U.S. government] really understand RMI Foreign Minister Tony DeBrum’s real agenda?

This commentary, borrowing some material from an earlier posting on, was published recently on a local RMI blog site:

“To prolong the current situation (at Ebeye) for another 70 years is insane. If there is to be continued U.S. use of Kwajalein it must be under different circumstances.” Senator Tony DeBrum, Marianas Variety, 25 June 2007.

The efforts to improve conditions at Ebeye reflect the successes and failures of U.S. policy goals and the RMI national and local governments over many decades. Conditions at Ebeye also reflect the fact that some of the traditional chiefs and their lawyers who control payments and funding for Ebeye have invested more money in Hawaii than in Ebeye. Tony deBrum has gotten rich representing the feudal lords of Kwajalein at the expense of the poor in Ebeye. He is not even a true Kwajalein landowner, and he gets big fees from the chiefs, while many people from Kwajalein and born there get little or nothing.

Now Tony claims to be the shrewd, smooth-talking diplomat who is not anti-American? Let’s look at the record.

The high chiefs of Kwajalein who put Tony in power want more money, but a 2005 speech expressing his own ideological views suggest that Minister deBrum may actually want the U.S. out of Kwajalein for personal ideological reasons, which are not friendly to the USA at all. While the high chiefs also have expressed the view that the U.S. should leave Kwajalein, most people assumed that was a negotiating ploy. But the chiefs who put deBrum in parliament to get them more money may find that he is using them for his own goals, instead of vice versa.

Specifically, on May 11, 2005, as a paid lobbyist for the Kwajalein chiefs, the current RMI Foreign Minister, Mr. deBrum, called not for increased lease payments, but for an end to U.S. Army operations at Kwajalein. Speaking to an international audience at the Seventh Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, deBrum stated:

“After years of ICBM testing, the Marshall Islands now has the dubious distinction of hosting the US government’s missile shield testing program. The US government shoots Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) at the Marshall Islands. From an area leased by the US Army on Kwajalein Atoll, the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Test Site, the US launches interceptor missiles at the incoming ICBMs to test the ability of these interceptors to track and destroy incoming missiles…Efforts by the Kwajalein leadership to deal with the realities which face them when the current agreement expires in 2016 have been largely ignored as the US openly and callously discusses the uses of our lands beyond 2016 and into 2086…all without our consent…We call upon the international community to extend its hands to assist the people of the Marshall Islands to extricate themselves from the legacy of the nuclear age and the burden of providing testing grounds for weapons of mass destruction.”


First, Tony does not recognize the RMI constitutional process for approval of the Compact and military rights agreement as consent of the governed under RMI law, and he holds the refusal of the Kwajalein chiefs to consent to an LUA over and above the consent of the people of the RMI as a nation to the Compact and MOURA.

Second, he calls on the U.N. and the international community to intervene and help the Kwajalein chiefs to end U.S. use of Kwajalein. The governments of Iran, Libya, North Korea and China know how to read, and “extricate” Kwajalein from the “burden of providing testing grounds” means U.S. out of Kwajalein.

In that context, his recent official statement as a minister quoted above is premised on the conditional terms “If there is to be continued U.S. use of Kwajalein.” This arguably is inconsistent with good faith adherence to the agreements between his government and the United States. His call for “different circumstances” as a condition to RMI recognition of the terms for continuation of U.S. military rights is aruably a de facto declaration that the RMI is not prepared to meet its existing treaty obligations.  In the press he has openly and unambiguously repudiated the base rights treaty.

That is OK, at least it is with the U.S. Congress. The U.S. looked this situation squarely in the face back in 2003, and didn’t blink. The treaty and its U.S. implementing law provide for a procedure to be triggered by RMI non-compliance.

Thus, in one sense the U.S. agrees with Tony deBrum. It really would be insane to continue use of Kwajalein under the present circumstances, in which the feudal lords neglect the needs of the poor people they classify as “commoners,” and blame their neglect on the USA. It would be insane for the U.S. to make discretionary concessions to the RMI government when it is under control of the Kwajalein chiefs, and will not meet its good faith obligations under the treaty which are not discretionary.

Tony deBrum is the paid agent of the Kwajalein chiefs, the current President of the RMI is powerless to control his own Foreign Minister. So it really is insane to continue normal relations with the RMI under the present circumstances. With deBrum in charge, the RMI is not the kind of ally the U.S. wants or needs in the new era we have entered.”


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