From left to right: United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) President David Panuelo, Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) President Hilda Heine, and Palau Vice President Raynold Oilouch during a joint press conference held in FSM on August 5.

United States (US) Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the US has begun the negotiation to extend the expiring Compact of Free Association (COFA) agreements with the Freely Associated States (FAS) of Palau, the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

In a joint press conference with the presidents of the RMI and FSM and Palau Vice President Raynold Oilouch on August 5 in FSM, Pompeo said that the US is taking concrete actions to solidify its bonds with the three island nations.

“These compacts help sustain the important strategic partnerships that the FAS have had with US since World War 2,” Pompeo said.

The sustained economic assistance to the Micronesian nations, according to Pompeo also sustained their “democracy and human rights in the face of Chinese attempts to redraw the Pacific in its authoritarian image.”

FSM President David Panuelo also said that the negotiating attorney is now revisiting the expiring COFA agreement and that this is something that the three nations of Micronesia are appreciative of.

Palau Vice President Oilouch also shared that the people of Micronesia feel important that the US Secretary of State has travel to the Pacific.

“Palau feels that its relation with the US is important. We believe in the US vision that this part of the world should be free and open,” Oilouch said.

FSM, RMI, and Palau share a special relationship with the United States under the COFA agreement where the latter provides financial assistance for a defined period of time and also provision of defense to the island nations.

The financial mechanism under the COFA with RMI and FSM are due to expire in 2024 while the COFA with Palau is also about to end in 2023. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)