More information about the Marshall Islands is available on the Marshall Islands country page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
U.S.-MARSHALL ISLANDS (RMI) RELATIONS
In 1947, the United Nations assigned the United States administering authority over the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Trust Territory), which included the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). The Compact of Free Association between the United States and the RMI entered into force in 1986. The Compact reflected that the RMI was a sovereign nation in free association with the United States. An Amended Compact entered into force in 2004. The Amended Compact does not have an end date.
The RMI is a sovereign nation. The United States and the RMI have full diplomatic relations and maintain deep ties and a cooperative relationship. The RMI government conducts its own foreign relations, consistent with the terms of the Amended Compact. Under the Amended Compact, the RMI and the United States agreed that the United States has full authority and responsibility for defense and security matters in and relating to the RMI. In addition, eligible RMI citizens can travel to the United States without visas to live, work, and study. RMI citizens also can serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and volunteer at per capita rates higher than many U.S. states. The RMI hosts the U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll, including the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, a key component of the U.S. missile defense network.
The United States carried out 67 nuclear tests in what is now the northern Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. The Compact and the Section 177 Settlement Agreement, which entered into force in 1986, constitute the full settlement of all claims, past, present, and future, of the government, citizens and nationals of the Marshall Islands related to the Nuclear Testing Program. The United States has provided more than $600 million to the affected communities. Adjusting for inflation, this is more than $1 billion in current dollars. This includes direct financial settlement of nuclear claims, resettlement funds, rehabilitation of affected atolls, and radiation related health care costs.
U.S. Assistance to the Marshall Islands
Pursuant to the Amended Compact, the U.S. government provides economic and program assistance to the RMI. The United States provides more than $80 million in assistance every year, along with a variety of federal programs and services, until FY 2023, including contributions to a jointly managed trust fund. The assistance provisions are aimed to assist the RMI in its efforts to promote economic advancement and self-sufficiency. This assistance also includes grant assistance focused on six sectors: 1) education; 2) health; 3) infrastructure; 4) public sector capacity building; 5) private sector development; and 6) the environment. These grants are funded through and administered by the Department of the Interior. The Governments of the United States and the RMI established a Joint Economic Management and Financial Accountability Committee (JEMFAC), consisting of representatives of both nations, which is responsible for reviewing the audits and reports required under the Compact, evaluating the RMI’s progress in meeting development objectives and recommending ways to increase the effectiveness of U.S. Compact assistance, among other things.
A number of federal programs and services are provided pursuant to the Compact and relevant subsidiary agreements, including programs and services provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Postal Service, and others. In addition, reflecting the strong legacy of trusteeship cooperation, other U.S. federal agencies operate programs in the RMI consistent with U.S. laws, including the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Education.
Separately, the United States provides foreign assistance to benefit RMI. For example, the RMI is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and the effects of climate change. U.S. foreign assistance also focuses on strengthening the RMI’s resilience to climate impacts.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The United States has a productive trade arrangement with the RMI under the Amended Compact. The RMI uses the U.S. dollar. The U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll is the second-largest employer in the Marshall Islands. In 2020, the United States exported $120 million in goods to the Marshall Islands and imported $30.8 million in goods from the Marshall Islands.
The Marshall Islands is one of 16 Pacific Island countries which is part of the South Pacific Tuna Treaty with the United States. The treaty allows for U.S. purse seine vessels to fish in the exclusive economic zones of the Pacific Island parties. The treaty is viewed as a model of international and fishery cooperation and has helped establish fisheries observer and data reporting requirements, as well as monitoring, control, and surveillance standards for the region’s fisheries, all of which are vital to deterring illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
RMI’s Membership in International and Regional 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 is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and the Pacific Community (SPC). The Marshall Islands also is a member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). In addition, the Marshall Islands is one of the eight signatories of the Nauru Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Management of Fisheries of Common Interest that collectively harvests approximately 55 percent of the western and central Pacific tuna supply – a globally significant fishery that provides 30 percent of the world’s tuna supply.
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). The RMI Ambassador to the United States is Gerald Zackios. The RMI maintains consulates in Springdale, Arkansas, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
More information about the Marshall Islands is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
CIA World Factbook Marshall Islands Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services