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FSM president meets with US Defense chief

WASHINGTON, D.C. (FSM Information Services) — On Oct. 11, 2019, David W. Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, was received by Mark T. Esper, secretary of the United States Department of Defense, in a courtesy call held at the Pentagon.

The purpose of the meeting was to reaffirm the enduring and perpetual defense relationship between the FSM and the United States as codified through the Compact of Free Association or COFA and to seek the DOD’s support as the Nation begins negotiations on the expiring economic provisions of the COFA.

Click to enlarge
FSM President David Panuelo and U.S. Defense Secretary Esper listen to the FSM national anthem.  FSMIS photos

“Our enduring relationship makes me proud,” President Panuelo began. “We think of [the United States] as part of our family — and I feel at home when I am here,” the President continued, describing a visit to John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame at Arlington Cemetery the day prior. The President described how the DOD plays a vital role in the broader FSM-U.S. relationship.

Secretary Esper asked how the DOD can support the FSM. President Panuelo requested the support of DOD in the upcoming COFA negotiations, as defense plays a pivotal role in U.S. Government decision-making. “Our defense relationship [remains intact and perpetual in the COFA]…it’s the economic provisions that are the focus,” President Panuelo said, highlighting the benefits of programs like the weather service from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and banking protections provided by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Secretary Esper advised that, while the DOD would defer to the U.S. Department of State for the negotiation process proper, that the DOD is supportive of the FSM and the U.S. reaching a mutually satisfactory and mutually beneficial arrangement.

The secretary reaffirmed the U.S. government’s appreciation for the high number of FSM citizens who serve in the U.S. armed forces. In turn, President Panuelo asked for the DOD’s broader support for the COFA Veterans Review Act —a bill in the U.S. Congress that would provide benefits to veterans regardless of whether they were living in the U.S. or in the FSM or other Freely Associated States.

“Makes sense…I would expect the benefits to follow the veterans, not the jurisdiction,” Secretary Esper said, emphasizing that while DOD would necessarily need to defer to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Congress that the DOD supports all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

The remainder of the meeting discussed issues of mutual interest to the FSM and U.S. governments.

“I have high confidence in you, Secretary,” President Panuelo said. “You have a standing invitation to come and visit the [FSM] whenever you are able to find an opportunity to do so.”

The FSM national government is proud of its enduring relationship with the people and the government of the United States.