The Marshall Islands is pressing the United States for more compensation for the damage caused by nuclear tests, officials said Thursday, after France announced it would pay its own victims.
The United States conducted 67 atomic weapons tests on the atolls of Bikini and Enewetak in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958.
Residents of the atolls and nearby areas were evacuated during the testing, and Washington has paid out more than 500 million dollars in compensation for health and other problems.
But the western Pacific nation is seeking another two billion dollars after the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal ran out of money.
Marshall Island officials welcomed a decision by France this week to set aside 10 million euros (14 million US) to compensate victims of nuclear tests in Algeria and French Polynesia, but said it made no difference to their own campaign.
"We need no motivation from the French," Bikini local government official Jack Niedenthal said.
"Our motivation comes from the promises that were made by the Americans directly to the Bikinians, promises that stated very clearly that the Bikinians would be like America's children and that they would be taken care of for ever," he said.
Marshall Islands President Litokwa Tomeing said earlier this month that no one had received compensation for three years since US funding for the claims tribunal ran out.
Speaking at the 55th anniversary of the March 1, 1954 Bravo test at Bikini -- the biggest ever US nuclear explosion -- Tomeing said Bikini islanders had given up their home for the sake of world peace.
"Clearly much, much more is expected from the moral standard-bearer of the free world," Tomeing said of US compensation.
However, a Marshall Islands petition seeking more than two billion dollars in additional compensation has languished with the US Congress since 2000.
The US ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Clyde Bishop, said the United States had provided huge amounts to the tiny nation of some 55,000 people, on top of nearly 300 million in direct compensation under a 1986 agreement.
"Over the years, the United States has spent an additional 380 million dollars on health services for the people inadvertently affected by the testing programme, for environmental monitoring, and for restoration of the affected islands where there is hope of their eventual resettlement," Bishop said.
Niedenthal said the French decision was welcome but did not amount to much, given 150,000 people took part in the tests in Algeria and French Polynesia.
"The good news is that the French government has recognized the need to compensate their nuclear victims," he said.
"The bad news is that it only amounts to 90 US dollars per person."