By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Accelerating the pace of negotiations on the Compacts of Free Association, Washington vows to finalize new economic packages for the Federated State of Micronesia and Marshall Islands by fall.
The economic provisions of the individual compacts with the FSM and the Marshall Islands will expire in 2023 and for Palau, 2024.
The extension of funding packages is the United States’ fence against the expansion of China’s diplomatic clout in the Pacific island region.
Last week, a U.S. government team led by Joseph Yun, special presidential envoy for compact negotiations, met in San Francisco with the FSM team led by Leo A. Falcam Jr., to continue negotiations on economic assistance, federal programs, and other matters related to the compact and subsidiary agreements between the two nations.
“The candid and quality discussions that we have shared with the Federated States of Micronesia team assure me that the special and unique ties between our two nations are indeed enduring,” Yun said. “The U.S.’ priority remains to complete our negotiations that are mutually beneficial and satisfactory, and in as timely a manner as possible.”
“Our FSM team remains grateful for our continuing collaborative work with our U.S. partners, and I am encouraged by the open and frank nature of our discussions," Falcam said.
"Although a significant amount of work remains in our deliberations, I am confident that our common interests and goals will enable us to complete an agreement that is mutually beneficial and reflective of our unique and special relationship,” he added.
“Our bilateral discussions, both at the official and technical levels, continue to progress and advance and we remain optimistic and hopeful that we can complete significant portions of the negotiations by this fall,” said Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Keone Nakoa.
Both sides plan to continue technical work and discussions in advance of the next formal round of negotiations scheduled to begin no later than August 2022, at a location to be determined.
For the Marshall Islands, the chief negotiators for the two sides agreed to target signing a memorandum of understanding before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
In addition to extending U.S. funding support, Marshall Islands leaders are seeking U.S. support that addresses certain issues at the Kwajalein missile range, to resolve its nuclear weapons test legacy that has left islands uninhabitable due to high radiation levels and continues to cause health problems for many islanders, and to bring climate adaptation and mitigation measures into the agreement.