U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo poses for a photo with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono at the U.S.-Australia-Japan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue in Thailand, Bangkok on August 1, 2019.(State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain)

Australia, Japan, and the United States appeared to be in sync as they sent high-ranking officials to visit island nations in the Pacific all in the first week of August.

Japan and the United States are sending in their foreign minister and state secretary for the first time, respectively, to Micronesian region with both countries separately saying this is the demonstration of their continued commitment to the Pacific islands.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono arrived in Palau yesterday, August 5, for a three-day visit as part of his Asia-Pacific engagement. He is the first Japanese Foreign Minister to visit Palau.

Japan Ambassador to Palau Akira Karasawa, in a speech on August 2, said that the scheduled visit to Palau by Foreign Minister Kono “demonstrates the importance Japan put [on its] relationship with Palau.”

Japan’s Tokyo Olympic Games Minister Shunichi Suzuki is also scheduled to visit the island nation in mid-August.

While Palau’s government is accommodating Kono’s visit, other Micronesian leaders are also meeting with United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) yesterday, August 5, to tackle China’s affairs in the region, the Compact of Free Association agreement, economic development and investment, and amendment of the US REAL ID Act, among others.

Pompeo is also said to be the first US Secretary of State to visit the FSM.

Pompeo, in an interview with the travelling press before his engagements with the Asian and Pacific island nations, said that his visit to the Pacific islands is to “demonstrate America’s continued commitment to not only Asia and Southeast Asia but to the Pacific islands as well.”

Vice President Raynold Oilouch is representing Palau in the meeting with Pompeo in FSM.

Pompeo’s visit in FSM is a concrete response to the US’ promise in May during US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Micronesian leaders in Washington that it will be sending high-ranking officials to the region.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Assistant Defense Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific (MIDP) Alex Hawke is also attending the 5th Pacific Water Ministerial Forum in Vanuatu which kicked off on August 5.

Apart from taking part in the Pacific ministers’ discussions surrounding the challenges faced by Pacific communities in providing clean water and sanitation, Hawke will also meet with Vanuatu ministers to tackle bilateral partnership, according to a press statement issued by Australia’s MIDP office.

“[Minister Hawke] will visit Mala Base to see firsthand the deep security cooperation and training occurring under the Defence Cooperation Program,” the press statement read.

“Effective collaboration is vital in addressing water security issues in the Pacific region. I look forward to talks with our Vanuatu partners about our work together to ensure a peaceful, prosperous and secure Pacific,” Hawke was quoted saying in the press statement.

Prior to their engagements with the Pacific island nations, the top diplomats of Japan, Australia, and United States met in Thailand on August 1 for the U.S.-Australia-Japan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue.

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Japan Foreign Kono issued a joint ministerial statement to reiterate their “commitment to working proactively together to maintain and promote a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.”

“The Ministers shared their intention to enhance their engagement with the Pacific Island countries, including through high-level exchanges and greater economic collaboration,” the joint statement read. It also added that the three countries will collaborate to address security challenges faced by the Pacific island countries. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)