Will underscore strong relationship under Compact, discuss climate change initiatives and shared nuclear legacy
WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina will visit the Republic of the Marshall Islands from March 10 to March 13, 2015, to meet with Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak, Cabinet ministers, and other government officials, including the mayors of the four nuclear-affected atolls (Bikini, Rongelap, Enewetak, and Utirik).
This will be the assistant secretary’s first official trip to the Marshall Islands in her current capacity; Kia’aina previously traveled to Majuro in 1996, on an official congressional visit that included travel to Bikini Atoll, when she accompanied former Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Frank Murkowski of Alaska and former U.S. senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.
“The Republic of the Marshall Islands is one of the United States’ closest allies,” said Kia’aina. “The bond we share with the Marshall Islands is demonstrated by the Compact of Free Association and our shared democratic values. We also share commitments to improve effectiveness of Compact health and education grant funding and to address immediate threats from climate change as well as from non-communicable diseases, among other issues.”
The Office of Insular Affairs provided $74.3 million to the RMI government in fiscal year 2015. The President’s 2016 budget provides $76.5 million.
While on Majuro, Kia’aina will be met by the U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Thomas Armbruster and will pay courtesy visits on the Speaker of the Nitijela (the Marshall Islands Parliament), and confer with the chairman of the RMI Environmental Protection Agency and the director of the Office of Environmental Planning and Policy Coordination and the Ministry of Resources and Development to share Office of Insular Affairs initiatives on Climate Change, including the June Climate Stakeholders meeting in Guam.
Kia’aina will also meet with the Bikini Atoll mayor and Council, RMI hospital administrators, College of Marshall Islands officials, and RMI Ministry of Education leaders. She will lay a wreath in honor of U.S. Army Sgt. Solomon Sam, the first Marshall Islands citizen to die while serving in the Middle East conflict, post-Sept. 11, 2001. Her activities on Majuro will conclude with a visit to the International Organization for Migration to discuss Compact Impact issues.
Kia’aina will then visit Kwajalein Island for a tour of the U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll, home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site. Her trip to the Marshall Islands will conclude with a visit to neighboring Ebeye Island, where she will meet with the mayor of Kwajalein Atoll and other atoll leaders. She will tour health, education, and utility facilities on Ebeye and visit Kwajalein High School on Gugeegue Island. (OIA)