Marianas Variety – MICRONESIAN leaders have confidence in America’s ability to defend the region from outside threats, Palau President Thomas Remengesau Jr. said.

“As you know, the U.S. is responsible for the defense of Micronesia. And all of us in that respect are very proud and very fortunate that the U.S. is here to defend us,” he told Variety at the end of the three-day 23rd Micronesia Islands Forum on Friday.

In 2017, North Korea threatened the U.S. territory of Guam with a “salvo of missiles.”

Remengesau said as part of the Compacts of Free Association signed by the U.S., Palau, the Marshalls Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, “we offered our lands for military purposes or joint use. Our sons and daughters have also joined the U.S. military, and there’s a lot of cooperation that is possible and happening with the U.S. Department of Defense.”

Climate change is another regional issue that Palau considers important, Remengesau said.

“The rise of sea levels and coral bleaching are very big problems in Palau,” he said, adding that his administration has been pursuing renewable energy projects to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

He said although Micronesia as a whole and Palau in particular have contributed roughly less than 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the islands have become the “frontline” in the global effort to address climate change.

As for tourism, he said the suspension of Delta Air Lines’ direct flight service is a cause for concern.

One of the resolutions adopted during the forum asks the U.S. to consider bringing in more competitive airlines to the Pacific and “break the monopolies that are inherent in the region.”

Remengesau said Palau is also trying to diversify its tourism market by looking for another airline from Japan.

At the forum, the Micronesian leaders said the challenges of non-communicable diseases are among their priorities.

“Our public health community experts will continue to push for educational and regional programs that can address the health challenges that we are facing throughout the Pacific like obesity and diabetes,” Remengesau told Variety.

On Friday night, he met with the Palauan community on Saipan and discussed, among other things, the construction of an abai or traditional meeting house on Saipan as soon as the CNMI government finalizes the required paperwork.

Funding will be raised by the Palauan community and will be matched by the Palau government, Remengesau said.(Marianas Variety)