In this report, Patrick Kaiku explains how geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China has brought renewed attention to the Pacific Islands. And yet, geopolitical competition is precisely what relegated the Marshall Islands to a nuclear testing ground in the 20th century. The fear is that competition between the United States and China threatens to once again become an avenue by which two nuclear-armed great powers use the Pacific Islands as a playground for their own strategic goals.
To avoid inflicting further harm on an already vulnerable population and environment, Kaiku says that the international community, particularly the United States, must recognize the perverse impact that nuclear weapons have had on the region and decisively pursue nuclear justice initiatives as outlined in the National Nuclear Commission Strategy for Coordinated Action 2020-2023 (NNC Strategy). He recommends that nuclear justice be pursued as a regional agenda for the Pacific Islands as opposed to a narrow effort by the Marshall Islands. Kaiku also supports an international reckoning for the nuclear destruction wrought upon the Marshall Islands and asks that the international community focus its efforts on the five pillars of nuclear justice proposed in the NNC Strategy: compensation, health care, environment, national capacity, and education and awareness.
For Kaiku, nuclear justice does not stop at material compensation. In addition, the international community must build nuclear justice initiatives around a genuine understanding of the identities of island communities and Pacific connections to land and ocean.
This report was produced as part of a project on Nuclear Disarmament and the Anthropocene: Voices from Pacific Island Countries, sponsored by Ploughshares Fund.
About the Author
Patrick Kaiku is a full-time teaching fellow in the Political Science Strand at the University of Papua New Guinea. His research interests are diplomacy and Pacific politics. He was a Griffith Asia Institute Non-resident Fellow in 2022, and an East-West Center participant from 2009 to 2011. Mr. Kaiku holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Papua New Guinea, where he majored in Political Science. Through the Asian Development Bank Government of Japan scholarship, he pursued an MA postgraduate qualification in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawaií at Manoa.
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