PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On January 14th 2020 His Excellency David W. Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and the Honorable Yosiwo P. George, Vice President of the FSM, welcomed Rear Admiral John V. Menoni, Commander of Joint Region Marianas, to the Palikir Capitol Complex. Rear Admiral Menoni was visiting the FSM to attend the Joint Inauguration of the FSM State of Pohnpei’s Leadership, among other matters. The purpose of the meeting with President Panuelo and Vice President George was to continue the ongoing work of continuously reaffirming and strengthening the Enduring Partnership between the FSM and its first and foremost ally, the United States of America, as well as informally discussing some of the potential agenda  items in the forthcoming Joint Committee Meeting between the FSM and the U.S.

The meeting began with President Panuelo and Rear Admiral Menoni discussing the success of the 2019 iteration of Operation Christmas Drop, wherein President Panuelo recounted the joy of delivering gifts whilst aboard a C-130 Hercules aircraft with the callsign “Santa 32”.

“Thank you again, Admiral—that was a very good experience,” President Panuelo said. “I particularly enjoyed that it was a joint operation with other countries like [Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines]. I hope [Operation Christmas Drop] continues to grow and expand.”

The conversation then evolved towards the agenda for the next FSM-U.S. Joint Committee Meeting, presently scheduled for February 2020. President Panuelo noted his appreciation for U.S. assistance in targeting issues like financial (white collar) crimes and human trafficking, and requested an update on how the FSM can contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific whilst also noting the importance of the Nation’s leadership in being as informed as possible on security exercises and security threats.

“The security of the Indo-Pacific region, and keeping it free and open, is important,” President Panuelo said. “The agenda items I’ve seen are good, and the [FSM] would be interested to know the [U.S.] approach and strategy planning here in our region, such as what the increased exercises will be.”

The President advised that, on the part of the FSM, the next FSM-U.S. Joint Committee Meeting will include attendance by leadership at the highest levels. “So, we look forward to high level talks on cooperation under defense and security,” President Panuelo said.

Rear Admiral Menoni agreed that it was absolutely important that President Panuelo and the

Nation’s Leadership have an awareness of the U.S.’ security plans in the region.

While the bulk of the rest of the meeting focused on regional security matters—with the President reaffirming the Nation’s pride that the U.S. protects the FSM and its citizens—there was also brief discussion on other issues of interest. Such topics included the proposed COFA Veterans Review Act, presently being considered by the U.S. Congress which would extend healthcare services to FSM veterans of the U.S. Military who reside in the FSM, the March 12th, 2020 arrival date of the

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Country Coordinator to the FSM, and the

upcoming arrival of the new U.S. Ambassador (Her Excellency Carmen G. Cantor) who will be replacing His Excellency Robert A. Riley III and presenting her credentials to President Panuelo on January 31st, 2020.

The meeting ended on a high note, with President Panuelo reaffirming that Rear Admiral Menoni is always welcome at the Office of the President.