US, Palau resume defense talks
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The United States and Palau have resumed discussions on beefing up their defense partnership during the Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) held this month.
With an open invitation to the U.S., Palau is among the Pacific jurisdictions marked by the Pentagon as a possible site of a new military base.
"The JCM process allows us to have discussions about defense agreements, to
forge new partnerships, to expand relationships and friendships bound by
trust--reaffirming our commitment to each other's safety and well-being,"
said Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, commander of Joint Region Marianas.
The Department of Defense plans to build a $197 million tactical multi-mission over-the-horizon radar for Palau, which hosted U.S. military training exercises this year. The proposed radar system is aimed at spotting air and surface targets.
"We are fortunate to have shared values and a close bond of friendship with
our like-minded partners in the region as we work together on issues and
concerns toward our most fundamental and common needs: defense and security of Palau and the region," said Nicholson, who also serves as U.S. Indo-Pacific Command's senior military official for Palau.
Keynoting the committee meeting held in Koror on Dec. 14 and 15, Nicholson highlighted the critical importance of JCMs as a component of the Compact of Free Association. The funding provisions of the compact between the U.S. and Palau will expire in 2024.
"This collaboration is critical to achieving our shared goal of economic prosperity, to preserving our common values, and to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific," Nicholson said.
According to a press release from JRM, Nicholson received briefings from state and local officials and toured significant areas germane to military operations, including the Civic Action Team's (CAT) Camp Katuu located in Airai.
Camp Katuu is overseen by the Navy's 30th Naval Construction Regimen based on Guam, with rotational operational responsibility now assigned to the U.S. Air Force.
"Our men and women in uniform of the Civic Action Team have been
performing amazing work in Palau for decades, and I am extremely proud of
their achievements as they work alongside the people and government of
Palau," said Nicholson. "I am honored to have been able to visit with them
during this trip and to recognize their dedication and sacrifices."
Nicholson stressed the importance of the semi-annual meetings that facilitate open and honest dialogue on topics of mutual interest to Palau and the Department of Defense.
The military did not provide further information about the JCM discussions.
U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessy-Niland, Palau Vice President Jerrlyn Uduch Sengebau Senior and U.S. Department of State officials attended the JCM, which was hosted by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
Nicholson thanked Palau for hosting U.S. military training exercises, which he said strengthened the military's mission capabilities and interoperability with allies and partners.
"I'd like to extend my gratitude for the outstanding and enduring
partnership between our two nations. Without the support of Palau's
government and local community, we would not be able to fulfill our promise
to protect and safeguard this country, a commitment that began when the U.S.
came ashore on Peleliu during World War II," added Nicholson.