US territorial treaties are pending in Senate

The United States is not involved in any territorial disputes that rival the Falklands disagreement, experts say. The US has had claims on 26 Pacific islands which conflicted with Britain and New Zealand since 1939, says former US Ambassador to Fiji William Bodde Jr. While most have been settled, four treaties are now awaiting approval by the US Senate.

US claims are mostly based on discovery claims by US citizens in the 1880s out to exploit the ample supply of guano, or sea bird manure, that was used for fertilizer.

The four treaties:

Treaty of Friendship with Tuvalu.

This treaty renounces US claims to the former Ellice Islands in order to remove "a potentially disruptive dispute with this tiny independent nation (pop. 8,000)." The US and Britain both claimed sovereignty over the islands until Tuvalu went independent in 1978.

Treaty of Friendship with Kiribati.

Again, the US and Britain both claimed rights to Kiribati, formerly the Gilbert Islands. Joint administration resolved the diplomatic dispute for awhile. Then Britain left, but th e Department of Defense kept a base there until just before Kiribati announced independence in 1979.

Treaty with the Cook Islands and Treaty with New Zealand regarding Tokelau.

These two treaties resolve problems resulting from overlapping 200 -nautical-mile zones and the islands that get caught in the middle. The US relinquished all claims to islands between American Somoa and the Cook Islands. The dispute with Tokelau was resolved with New Zealand, which administers Tokelau, by the US renouncing claims on all but one island.

Treaty of Quita Sueno.

The US last fall relinquished to Colombia the claims to three Caribbean islands, Quita Sueno, Serrana, and Roncador. But the Tiny hunk of rock between Jamaica and Haiti called Navassa is claimed by both the US and Haiti. The US uses it for a lighthouse, and is under the jurisdiction of the coast Guard.

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