From left to right: Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo, United States Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Republic of Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, and Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. in a meeting at Pentagon in WAshington. (Photo Courtesy of US Embassy Kolonia/File Photo)

WASHINGTON, 23 MAY 2019 (FSMIS/PACNEWS) — The United States has assured leaders of its Freely Associated States (FAS) in the three north Pacific that it stands ready to defend them against outside threats such as North Korea.

The assurance was made by the Acting Secretary for Defence, Patrick Shanahan while hosting the three leaders – Presidents Hilda C. Heine of the Marshall Islands, President Tommy Remengesau Jr of Palau and President David Panuelo of the Federated States of Micronesia at Pentagon in Washington Tuesday.

It’s the first time the three leaders have been hosted at the Pentagon.

“We are committed to working with you to address common security challenges such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” said the Acting Secretary.  He also acknowledged, with great appreciation, the dedication and service of Micronesian citizens in the U.S. Armed Forces.

According to the Acting Secretary, the Pacific region is a top priority of U.S. National Defense policy, and the U.S. is actively rededicating significant defense resources to the region.  These resources include funding, military force presence, and defense projects and programmes.

The three Presidents acknowledged and welcomed the statement by the Acting Secretary.

President Panuelo responded by saying, “Our defense and security commitments under the Compact of the Freely Associated States has never wavered at any time in the history of our relationship, and that will continue in perpetuity, as far as we’re concerned.”

In follow-on discussions, President Panuelo also emphasised the very prominent role that the U.S. Department of Defense plays in the Compact Treaty with the FSM, and how critical it is that both countries expedite plans to address the expiring provisions of the Compact of Free Association, as Amended.

“We welcome whatever intentions the U.S. plans in terms of expanded and increased presence in our country,” said President Panuelo. “And so with our two presidents here, I convey our collective thank you and appreciation for the great honour of being here, and being hosted by your government. Thank you so much.”

Other highlights of the discussions were the rapidly changing political and security dynamics in the Pacific, and the on-going cooperative efforts to increase U.S. focus and presence in the region.

The Acting Secretary reiterated the importance and significance of the special relationship that exists between the Compact of Free Association (COFA) countries and the United States, and stressed the commitment that the United States has to the Defense of the three nations. (PACNEWS)