Policy & History

More information about the Marshall Islands is available on the Marshall Islands Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.

U.S.-Marshall Islands Relations

After gaining military control of the Marshall Islands from Japan in 1944, the United States assumed administrative control of the Marshall Islands under United Nations auspices as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands following the end of World War II. The Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States in 1983 and gained independence in 1986 with the Compact’s entry into force. From 1999-2003, the two countries negotiated an Amended Compact that entered into force in 2004.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a sovereign nation. While the government is free to conduct its own foreign relations, it does so under the terms of the Compact. The United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands, and the Government of the Marshall Islands is obligated to refrain from taking actions that would be incompatible with these security and defense responsibilities. The United States and the Marshall Islands have full diplomatic relations. Marshallese citizens may work and study in the United States without a visa, and they join the U.S. military at a higher rate than any U.S. state.

The U.S. Department of Defense, under the Military Use and Operating Rights Agreement, a subsidiary government-to-government agreement of the Compact, received permission to use parts of the lagoon and several islands on Kwajalein Atoll. The agreement allows the United States continued use of the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll missile test range until 2066 with an option until 2086. Another major subsidiary agreement of the original Compact provides for settlement of all claims arising from the U.S. nuclear tests conducted at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls from 1946 to 1958.

In April 2014, the RMI filed suits against the United States and other nuclear powers claiming failure to meet their obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The suits do not seek any monetary compensation for the RMI related the its nuclear legacy. On February 3, 2015, the federal court in California granted the USG’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought against it by the RMI.

U.S. Assistance to the Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands is an isolated, sparsely populated, low-lying Pacific island country consisting of approximately 70 sq. miles of land spread out over 750,000 sq. miles of ocean just north of the equator. These characteristics make it vulnerable to transnational threats, natural disasters, and effects of climate change. U.S. assistance focuses on supporting health, education, and infrastructure in the Marshall Islands, as well as the RMI’s ability to perform maritime security functions and strengthen climate resilience through disaster preparedness. The U.S. provided $5.1 million in drought assistance in 2013.

Under the Compact, as amended, the U.S. provides the Marshall Islands with approximately $70 million annually through FY 2023, including contributions to a jointly managed trust fund and financial assistance from other U.S. Federal Grants. Marshallese citizens also continue to have access to many U.S. programs and services. A Joint Economic Management and Financial Accountability Committee with members from both governments has been established to strengthen management and accountability with regard to assistance provided under the Compact, as amended, and to promote effective use of the funding provided.

A number of U.S. Government agencies operate programs or render assistance to the Marshall Islands. These include the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Postal Service, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, the Department of State, and the Department of the Interior. Compact grants are primarily funded through and implemented by the Department of the Interior.

Bilateral Economic Relations

The economy of the Marshall Islands is closely linked to that of the United States, and its GDP is derived mainly from U.S. payments under the terms of the Compact of Free Association. The Army Garrison on Kwajalein Atoll is the number two employer in the RMI. Through the Compact, the United States provides significant financial support to the Republic of the Marshall Islands to help achieve the Compact goals of economic self-sufficiency. The United States is one of the Marshall Islands’ top trading partners, and the Marshall Islands has expressed interest in attracting U.S. investment. The Marshall Islands sells fishing rights to other nations as a source of income. Under the multilateral U.S.-Pacific Islands tuna fisheries treaty, the U.S. provides an annual grant to Pacific island parties, including the Marshall Islands, for access by licensed U.S. fishing vessels. A ten year extension of this treaty has been under negotiation since 2009.

Marshall Islands’ Membership in International Organizations

The Marshall Islands and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Asian Development Bank. The Marshall Islands also belongs to the Pacific Islands Forum, of which the United States is a Dialogue Partner.

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands is Roxanne Cabral; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.

The Marshall Islands maintains an embassy in the United States at 2433 Massachusetts Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-234-5414).

More information about the Marshall Islands is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here: