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U.S. judge dismisses Marshall Islands' nuclear suit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Marshall Islands against the United States that accused Washington of failing in its obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament, campaigners said on Friday.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said U.S. Federal Court Judge Jeffrey White dismissed the suit on Tuesday on the grounds that the harm caused by the U.S. breach of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was “speculative.” Compelling it to negotiate disarmament would not redress any harm to the Marshall Islands, it added.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said it would appeal the ruling. It says the United States conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands from 1946 to 1958 and islanders are still plagued by the health and environmental effects as a result.

Lawsuits the Marshall Islands brought last year in the United States and The Hague against the United States and the eight other nuclear powers did not seek compensation, but rather, court orders requiring them enter to negotiations for nuclear disarmament.

The suits argued that all nine nuclear states - the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea - were in “flagrant violation of international law” for failing to pursue the negotiations required by the 1968 NPT.

Russia said last year that the lawsuits were “baseless” and would not help rid the world of atomic weapons.

The Marshall Islands, a group of 31 atolls, was occupied by Allied forces in 1944 and put under U.S. administration in 1947. The tiny Pacific Ocean territory, which has a population of about 68,000, became an independent republic in 1986.

Tests conducted there included the “Castle Bravo” detonation of a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll in 1954, the largest the United States has ever conducted.

The detonation was estimated to be 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945, producing an intense fireball followed by a 20-mile-high (32 km) mushroom cloud and widespread radioactive fallout.

Under bilateral agreements between the United States and the Marshall Islands, a Nuclear Claims Tribunal was established to assess and award damages to victims of the nuclear tests. But it has never had the cash to compensate fully for the damage done.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Alan Crosby