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Pentagon evaluates security situation in Micronesia

MAJURO — The U.S. Defense Department is to report to the U.S. Congress by December 1 on a range of security concerns in the US-affiliated north Pacific island area as The Defense Department is reviewing the strategic importance of the Compacts of Free Association for the United States as part of a broad study of security issues related to the freely associated states of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.

All three nations have long-term treaties with the U.S. that give Washington control of defense and security in an area of the north Pacific the size of the continental U.S.

Click to enlarge
U.S. security and defense needs in the Micronesia region, which include operation of the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll — pictured in this aerial photo of Kwajalein — are under study by the Defense Department, which is to report to the U.S. Congress before the end of the year.  Contributed photo

The study is also evaluating the implications for American defense and foreign policy interests of the People’s Republic of China economic aid in the freely associated states.

The study was mandated by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act passed late last year by the U.S. Congress. It is to be submitted to defense committees of the House and Senate no later than December 1 this year. The report is to be issued in unclassified form but may include classified attachments.

What is significant is that this is the first study of its kind during the Compact Two period — which started in 2004 — by the Defense Department at the direction of the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has conducted several evaluations of US aid and other issues related to the Compacts of Free Association since the start of the second Compact funding period in 2004. It issued its latest study last week on use of U.S. funding by the Marshall Islands and FSM, and transition issues for the governments as they gear for use of trust fund money when U.S. grants end after 2023.

The Congress directed the Defense Department to address security, defense and foreign policy issues related to the Micronesia area. Concern over the impact of China in Micronesia is an underlying issue of the study. China maintains diplomatic ties with the Federated States of Micronesia, while Palau and the Marshall Islands are aligned with Taiwan.

The terms of the study include:

  • • The role of the Compacts of Free Association in promoting United States defense and foreign policy interests, including the United States defense posture and plans.
  • • The status of the obligations of the United States and the Freely Associated States under the Compacts of Free Association.
  • • The economic assistance practices of the People’s Republic of China in the Freely Associated States, and the implications of such practices for United States defense and foreign policy interests in the Freely Associated States and the Pacific region.
  • • The economic assistance practices of other countries in the Freely Associated States, and the implications of such practices for United States defense and foreign policy interests in the FAS and the Pacific region.