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A tale of two alliances

Pacific Reflections By Gabriel McCoard


The acronym has a nice ring to it. Perhaps it’s the “K.” It makes me think of a large island-bound bird that is now extinct.

It stands, of course, for the security through submarine pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I mean, per U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III’s Sept. 15 statement commemorating the second anniversary of AUKUS, a “once-in-a-generation partnership” to “break down barriers to strengthen cooperation” between the three nations, and most importantly, their military-industrial-complexes.

I was naively under the impression that, despite the occasional ripple, Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. were pretty strong allies, but I digress. Granted, there is the issue that commonwealth law degrees are acceptable credentials for employment throughout much of the American umbrella while American Juris Doctors don’t receive that same treatment in the remainder of the Indo-Pacific, but again, I digress.

AUKUS coincides with the torpedoing – pardon the naval pun – of a $66 billion deal whereby France would provide Australia with diesel-powered submarines.

That’s right. Diesel.

Despite France’s nuclear capabilities, nobody wants a diesel submarine, so after an almost $586 million handshake with French suppliers, the two nations agreed to still be friends. New Caledonia remains a critical concern in the Pacific. And baguette is intangible cultural heritage.

I have no shame in saying that a world without baguette is a world I don’t want to live in.

As is the case throughout the Pacific, Australia is non-nuclear. In 1970, it even signed the UN’s Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Given the anti-nuclear composition of much of the region, the idea that a signatory to non-proliferation could enter into technology exchanges with established nuclear powers led to much handwringing, not so much about Australia, but the idea that the deal ushered in the slippery slope of nuclear powers proliferating all things nuclear with non-nuclear powers.

Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are different creatures, however, and Australia has been adamant that these submarines will not carry nuclear armaments.


Not to mention the enduring question of whether violating a UN treaty will actually deter a nation.

I understand nuclear anxiety. The nuclear industry has not exactly inspired confidence. Deliberate exposure and experimentation.

But there’s also a lot of baseless paranoia. Radiation scares people in a way that carbon and coal dust don’t, climate change protestors aside.

But let’s turn north a few degrees to the ongoing saga of increased funding for the COFA republics.

On the same day that the U.S. Department of Defense celebrated a milestone, Palau’s Island Times observed a different milestone: fees from Palau’s digital citizenship, which allows foreigners to trade cryptocurrencies and sign documents, more or less, reached $1 million in revenue.

Wonderful news.

The compact is working. COFA Republics are internally developing their own economies.

Let me propose something: The U.S. should reduce its assistance to Palau by $1 million annually.


The purpose of U.S. aid, after all, was to help Palau develop its economy into something resembling self-sufficiency, wasn’t it?

It worked, especially in Palau. Palau is the envy of the region. Foreign investment, ample tourism, worldwide media attention. If this continues, placing itself at the intersection of global innovation and commerce will only increase revenues. The nation will be less reliant on foreign labor and its children can move home. The Micronesian diaspora and its accompanying consternation can come to an end. Forget about remittances.

Palau, after all, defeated the dependency theory while Ghana is looking for its 17th International Monetary Fund rescue.

So why would the U.S. continue to spend more to exercise a right, namely military access, that it already has?

Or did my question answer itself?

And for further explanation, we might have to look to AUKUS and nuclear submarines.

Gabriel McCoard is an attorney who previously worked in Palau and Chuuk State. Send feedback to

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