A special three-member tribunal ruled Wednesday that a proposed compact between Palau and the United States was not properly approved by Palau voters.
The special Palau Appeals Court said the Compact of Free Association needed 75% approval. In a plebiscite in February, 72.19% of Palau voters approved the proposed agreement.
The compact would have allowed the United States to bring in and store nuclear materials in the republic, in conflict with Palau's nuclear-free constitution. The court ruled that a three-quarters majority vote was needed to override the constitutional provision.
The court held also that compact provisions permitting the United States to invite armed forces of other nations to train in Palau required 75% voter approval.
In addition, the opinion said Palau's government could not exercise powers of eminent domain to provide defense sites for the United States in the archipelago.
"The government is disappointed with the ruling," said Bonifacio Basilius, a spokesman in the office of President Lazarus Salii. "However, we now know what the legal ramifications are and there is no more doubt. The government will do what the court has ordered."
The pact proposed self-determination for the western Pacific island state of 12,250 residents. It would have given Palau nearly $1 billion in U.S. economic aid over 50 years.