United States military personnel during a military exercise at Palau International Airport (PIA) in April 2019. File Photo

Vice President and Justice Minister Raynold Oilouch told the media that the increasing presence of the United States military in Palau is part of the request of the country to enhance security here and to discourage illegal activities on its waters.

Oilouch, who was responding to the media’s inquiries during the sidelines of the United States Air Force exercise at the Palau International Airport yesterday, April 25, said that Palau has always requested during annual Joint Committee Meetings (JCMs) with the United States to increase their presence here as it will help with the country’s security.

Oilouch added that this is not only unique to the United States as Palau has also told its other allies such as Taiwan, Japan, and Australia to come to Palau as well, citing that Palau want to play its part in the Indo-Pacific Strategy.

“We might not have the military, navy or whatever but this way we can contribute,” Oilouch said.

The vice president reiterated that having the presence of its allies in the country has a deterrent effect on illegal fishing and other transnational crimes.

In a separate interview, United States Ambassador to Palau Amy Hyatt, when asked by the media what has prompted the sudden increasing US military presence in here, said that the United States has always had a steady stream of exercises here as part of its commitment to the security and defense of the country.

Hyatt said that it is more of a question of how much they can manage such arrangements, given the logistics in Palau.

“We’re always happy to come here and demonstrate our commitment to Palau and Palau has been a wonderful host for this exercise,”Hyatt said.

Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs Spokesperson Major Phillip Ventura also said that the Pacific Air Forces, which is based inAndersen Air Force Base, Guam,is here in Palau as part of its efforts to enhance dispersal capabilities.

US Air Force F-22 fighter jets and a C-130 mobility aircraft were stationed at the Palau International Airport for public display on April 25.

Locals get the chance to tour the C-130 aircraft and see the fighter jets at a close distance.

The exercise kicked off on April 22 and runs until April 26. (By Rhealyn C. Pojas)