Freely Associated States (FAS) leaders during a meeting with President Donald Trump (3rd from left) on May 21. From left to right, Republic of Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo, and Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. (rightmost).(Contributed Photo)

President Tommy Remengesau, Jr., in a meeting with United States Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, took the chance to discuss with the US cabinet official that the Compact of Free Association (COFA) agreement should not just benefit militarization interest but also its civilian purposes.

Remengesau, who was meeting Shanahan prior to the historic meeting with United States President Donald Trump along with the presidents of the Republic of Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), expressed appreciation for President Donald Trump’s gesture to meet the leaders of the Freely Associated States such as Palau, RMI and the FSM.

“We are here in Washington to not only emphasize the fact that the Compact of Free Association provides that framework of working together, but really to discuss with you the areas where the joint use of the compact obligations and responsibilities can benefit not just the militarization, but also the civilian uses of those obligations. And that goes a long way to expanding and promoting our relationship,” Remengesau said.

Remengesau said that the challenges in the Pacific relating to the Korean Peninsula, the China-Taiwan Straits issues, South China seas, and threats to freedom of navigation are issues that are “concerning and dear” to the Pacific leaders.

In a separate meeting with the US Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Remengesau reiterated that the COFA has provided the backbone of US military strategy in the Pacific for decades.

“While we affirm this alliance, we want to ensure that it also adapts. We would welcome a larger U.S. military and law enforcement presence in Palau where our citizens, including veterans, can take a greater role in this partnership. The Compact will be more effective when we share the responsibilities,” President Remengesau said.

Remengesau is expected to be back in Palau yesterday, May 23. (By Rhealyn C. Pojas)