US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo (left) with Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo during a joint press conference with Freely Associated States (FAS) leaders in FSM on August 5.

Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) President David Panuelo assured the visiting United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in FSM that his country’s relationship with the US is “first and foremost” while it is “purely economic and technical” with China.

Panuelo’s remark was uttered before journalists during a joint press conference with Pompeo and the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) President Hilda Heine and Palau Vice President Raynold Oilouch on August 5 in FSM. Pompeo was in FSM as part of his Asia-Pacific engagements.

“I want to make it clear in this context and for US providing us peace and stability in the region,” Panuelo said.

Pompeo said that the US will help protect the FAS’s sovereignty, security, and their rights to freedom and peace just as the US did during World War 2.

The US, according to Pompeo, “opposed any larger nation’s attempts to turn the Pacific islands into footholds for regional dominance.”

In the announcement of the US’ opening of negotiations on the expiring Compact of Free Association (COFA) agreement with the FAS, Pompeo said that through the sustained economic assistance with FAS, they can sustain “democracy and human rights in the face of Chinese attempts to withdraw from the Pacific its authoritarian image.”

Pompeo’s visit come amid trade tensions between US and China and also amid news of the latter’s growing influence in the Pacific.

Out of the three Freely Associated States (FAS), only the FSM has an official diplomatic relationship with the People’s Republic of China. The RMI and Palau, meanwhile, do not have diplomatic relationships with China. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)