Author: Alan, 5B4AHJ

Canton (aka Kanton) Island and Enderbury Island were the subject of a dispute between Britain and the USA from 1937-39, with both countries claiming sovereignty over the islands.

The dispute was resolved amicably on 1939-04-06, when Britain and USA agreed to jointly control the islands for the next forty years, as the Canton & Enderbury Islands Condominium.

The result of this agreement was that both Britain and the USA issued operating permits for amateur radio operation from the islands.

British operations used the VR1 prefix, and American operations used the  KB6 prefix in the period immediately post-WWII (1945-46 or 47) followed by KB6 until 1978-03-23, after which KH1 was used until 1983-09-23.

The bizarre consequence of this, from a DXCC perspective, was that British operations from these islands counted as British Phoenix Islands (now Central Kiribati), whereas American operations counted as Baker, Howland & American Phoenix Islands! 

The Republic of Kiribati was formed on 1979-07-12. The new republic included Canton & Enderbury Islands, at which time the Anglo-American condominium was formally terminated. However, the Treaty of Tarawa, in which the USA relinquished all claims to Canton and Enderbury Islands, did not come into force until 1983-09-23.

Since 1979-07-12, all QSOs with Canton and Enderbury Islands count for Central Kiribati, except for stations with a KH1 callsign before 1983-09-23.  Examples of KH1 callsigns in this period are KS6DV/KH1 in 1979 and SM0AGD/KH1 in October, 1982.

Following the relinquishing of US claims to Canton Island, there was some discussion in ARRL as to whether to delete the entity of Baker, Howland & American Phoenix Islands and replace it with a new entity, Baker & Howland Islands, or simply to rename the existing entity. The decision was made to go for the renaming option. 

The following is an extract from a longer article by W6CF, who, at the time, was Secretary of the Northern California DX Club, in DXNS #1122, dated 1984-06-19. 

"The United States and the United Kingdom both claimed the eight Phoenix Islands for many years, in conflict with one another. In order to resolve the dispute, back in 1939 the two countries agreed to joint administration of two of the islands, Enderbury and Canton Islands. This was expanded to include Hull Island in 1970. Because of this joint arrangement, a station located on Canton Island could be licensed by the British as a VR1, and contacts with that station counted for the DXCC country of the British Phoenix Islands. That very same station, in the same location, could also be licensed as a KB6 (later a KH1) and contacts under the US call would count for the DXCC country of Baker, Howland, and American Phoenix Islands. In 1979, the Republic of  Kiribati was created, and the DXCC country of British Phoenix Islands became Central Kiribati. The dispute between the US and the UK then became a dispute between the US & Kiribati. Then, in late 1979, the US and the Republic of Kiribati signed a Treaty of Friendship in which the US renounced all claims to the Phoenix Islands."


RSGB DX News Sheet

Wikipedia Kanton Island

Wikipedia Treaty of Tarawa