Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific Anne Rushton (center) applauding a guest during the first day of the 19th Micronesia Presidents’ Summit in Palau on February 20. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)

Australia will assume a more prominent role in Palau, Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific Anne Rushton told reporters here.

Rushton is attending as Australia’s representative at this week’s Micronesia Presidents’ Summit where she confirmed that Canberra will be establishing an embassy in Palau “in the next year or so.”

She said the establishment of a diplomatic post is” part of the whole Pacific step-up program, we acknowledged that we need to pay a stronghold in partnership with our Pacific neighbors,” she said.

The proper way to do it is to increase Australia’s diplomatic footprint in the Pacific is the establishment of embassies until they have one in every country in the region.

The summit is an annual gathering of leaders and ministers from Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and Nauru.

In the North Pacific, Australia has a diplomatic post in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said earlier that it welcomes Australia’s offer “to be a key partner and advocate for regional peace and security.”

Rushton said the purpose of her trip to Palau is to dialogue with the elected officials on aid it could provide to Palau.

“I am also here to speak to elected members about what are the priorities of Palau, and what are the projects they liked to work on,” she added.

She said Australia has pledge as much as $3 billion aid in the Pacific and one area it sees for Palau to look into is air transport service.

The leaders of the Micronesian region have long stated that small island nations face challenges that make it difficult to develop a viable aviation service. (Bernadette H. Carreon)