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

President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. had hinted support for the United States’ military strategy in the Pacific ahead of his meeting with President Donald Trump along with two other Pacific nation leaders on May 21.

In an op-ed article contributed by President Remengesau to The Hill on May 17, he said that it is in the Western Pacific – where Palau is situated – that hostilities would likely happen should the trade war between the US and China escalate into an actual war. According to Remengesau, it is against this backdrop that Palau and the presidents of the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will meet Trump so that they can reaffirm their “commitment to the Compact of Free Association (COFA)” which he said is the “backbone” of the US’ military strategy in the Pacific for decades.

“Palau and our neighbors’ strategic importance is the same as it was during World War 2 when the islands were the site of some of the fiercest fighting of the Pacific campaign,” Remengesau said in the op-ed article.

Remengesau even stated that Palau would welcome a larger US military presence in his country not only as a deterrent but also to train locals to “take greater role in the partnership.”

Remengesau even brought up in the article that the islands of Peleliu and Angaur in Palau – which were among the World War 2 staging grounds in the Pacific, need to be modernized to meet civilian transportation needs and also to be the base of military operations if a war break out.

“Palauans and Americans have worked together, and some have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure peace, prosperity and stability in the Western Pacific and around the world. But the world today isn’t like what it was back then and the time has come for our alliance to adapt,” Remengesau said.

In a report, Remengesau was quoted saying that the US had always expressed interest in establishing a stronger presence in the Pacific and that Palau wants to “see that happen.”

President Remengesau, President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands Hilda C. Heine, and President of the Federated States of Micronesia David W. Panuelo are scheduled to meet President Trump at the White House today, May 21, 2019 to talk about security and defense.

The US, Japan, and other allies had been promoting the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy, a move seen to counter China’s influence in the region. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)