By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Reaffirming its alliance with the United States, the Federated States of Micronesia vowed not to take part in any game that would put their diplomatic relations at stake and compromise regional security.
FSM President David Panuelo gave the U.S such reassurance amid the regional anxiety triggered by China’s attempt to pursue a Pacific-wide deal with island nations policing, security and data communications cooperation—a proposal that was rebuffed by island leaders on May 30.
In a letter to 21 Pacific leaders first reported by Reuters, Panuelo sought the rejection the “pre-determined joint communique,” warning that it could spark a new “cold war” between China and the West.
China previously succeeded in clinching a security agreement with the Solomon Islands and Beijing’s growing influence in the region is keeping Washington on its toes.
Panuelo, however, maintained that the U.S. is “FSM’s first and foremost ally.”
The U.S. and the FSM are currently negotiating new terms under the Compact of Free Association, which bonds the diplomatic relations between the two nations.
“The FSM will never take any action, or allow any action to be taken, that would threaten the FSM-U.S. enduring partnership or regional security and stability,” Panuelo said in a statement following his phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of States Anthony Blinken on June 15.
In exchange for a new economic package that would extend the expiring provisions of the compact, Washington is seeking the FSM’s expanded role in U.S. homeland security.
“The U.S. playing a leadership role in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific benefits our global community and Indo-Pacific region, especially our Blue Pacific Continent,” Panuelo said.
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In a statement after the phone conversation between Panuleo and Blinken, the U.S. State Department said the relations between the U.S. and the FSM were “marked by a commitment to securing peace and prosperity in the Pacific island region.”
“Secretary Blinken commended President Panuelo for his strong leadership in the region, including the swift actions taken against the Russian Federation after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” Ned Price, spokesperson for the department, said, referring to the FSM’s move to cut its ties with Russia.
Price said Blinken anticipates the timely completion of the compact negotiation., which is targeted to be finalized by September.
The new compact package is designed to enhance education, health care and infrastructure systems in the FSM.
Added to the package proposed by the FSM is the assistance for climate change impact mitigation.
Panuelo said the FSM “considers climate change as the nation’s and region’s most significant security threat.”
To enhance Washington’s engagement in the region, Panuelo asked Blinken to participate in the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders to be held in Hawaii in September.
He noted the “importance of in-person presence and the positive impact it brings.”