US Special Presidential Envoy Joseph Yun and his delegation set foot on the Runit Dome in Enewetak for the first time last Friday. Minister Kitlang Kabua and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade hosted this visit.
“We live in fear, fear of the bombs, guns, and nuclear,” were the words in a song sung by children in Enewetak to Yun and his delegation last Friday.
The US and Marshall Islands Compact delegations were welcomed island-style by the locals of Enewetak through serenading and adornment of leis flowers. Enewetak’s youth choir was livening the event with customary welcoming songs. Kabua’s delegation responded to the warm welcome by throwing candies to the spectators especially the children.
“I want to assure you that the leaders are not turning a blind eye to the sufferings that you encountered (all) those years ago,” said Minister Kabua. “President Kabua and the members of Nitijela have stated that if there is no discussion about nuclear, then there’s no Compact. The reason why this trip is significant is that we show our American friends the results and consequences of nuclear testing.”
“I’m here to take a look at Enewetak as well as Runit Dome to recognize what the United States has done through its testing of nuclear devices,” said Ambassador Yun. “This was a terrible, terrible tragedy. Please know that everything we see today, we discussed with you today, (and) we will take it home with us.”
Government and non-governmental dignitaries also accompanied Yun and the delegation during the 11.2 km (seven mile) boat trip from the main island to the dome. The atolls’s crystal blue lagoon and the sun’s blazing heat encompassed the journey that included small islets, shipwrecks, birds, and sea creatures emerging depicting Enewetak’s scenery.
After more than an hour, the three boats arrived at Runit, which has no harbor or dock. Every one of us went ashore by foot. Some switched their shoes to flip flops or walked bare foot carrying their shoes, while some took the risk and stepped out of the boat with their sneakers on.
Walking on the scenic beach of this lost paradise covered with greenery led us to the 374-foot dome. One of the island’s elders gave a tour of this secluded area pointing out a crater on the lagoon side of the dome, which he said resulted from the effect of 18 atomic tests.
A few cracks were seen at the dome which contains 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris. The legacy and future of the dome now lies in the ongoing Compact negotiations.
Later the same day, back in Majuro, a dinner event unfolded for the delegations at Marshall Islands Resort.
“We are looking forward to (continuing) this relationship,” said Speaker Kenneth Kedi at a dinner in MIR for the US delegation last week. “RMI is here to stay (with the US) and we are not going anywhere.”
In the same event, Ambassador Yun said that negotiation is not about what you sign, but what happens afterward. “Compact means much more than China,” he added. “Compact will outlive China and (the) competition of today. It is about Marshallese and Americans.”