Chair Grijalva, Rep. Porter Statement on the Announcement of Ambassador Joe Yun as New Presidential Envoy

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Katie Porter (D-Calif.) today released the following joint statement regarding the announcement of Ambassador Joe Yun as the new Special Presidential Envoy for negotiations with the Freely Associated States—the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau—to extend the Compacts of Free Association:

“Ambassador Yun is an accomplished diplomat who has ably served both Democratic and Republican administrations in difficult assignments, and we are optimistic that his appointment marks a new chapter in efforts to renew the Compacts of Free Association. 

“Ambassador Yun inherits negotiations that have been stalled for more than a year. We urge Ambassador Yun to move quickly to address the underlying personnel and policy issues, including U.S. positions on the legacy of nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands during the Cold War. We hope he will work with Congress and this Subcommittee as we conduct oversight to provide accountability for the American people.

“The United States has a special relationship with the Freely Associated States, a moral obligation to further address the legacy of U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, and a national security imperative to renew the Compacts of Free Association that are so critical to countering China and other U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific. 

“We are encouraged by this development and look forward to working with Ambassador Yun.”

From 1946 to 1958, the U.S. government conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands, with an explosive yield equivalent to 1.7 Hiroshima-sized bombs every day for 12 years. At the time, the U.S. government administered the Marshall Islands in a United Nations Trust, with full responsibility for the health and welfare of the Marshallese people. 

The U.S. government withheld information related to the nuclear testing program during the negotiation of the original Compact of Free Association, and provided funds for legal claims related to nuclear testing that ultimately covered less than 10 percent of damages awarded by a special tribunal. Although the U.S. government has apologized for above-ground nuclear testing in the southwestern United States through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, there has been no such apology for the legacy of nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. 

On Oct. 21, 2021, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee invited the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Department of State to testify at hearing on Runit Dome and the U.S. nuclear legacy in the Marshall Islands. The State Department declined to testify, tried to force DOI to withdraw its testimony, and blocked DOE from producing documents promised to the Subcommittee during the hearing. The Committee’s Jan. 25 document request to the State Department remains unanswered. 

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