By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The United States and Palau strengthened their ties and renewed their commitment to enhance security and defense responsibilities in the
region during the biannual bilateral Joint Committee Meeting in Honolulu last week.
"Palau is a key partner for the United States in our efforts to maintain a
free and open Indo-Pacific region," Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, the U.S.
Indo-Pacific Command's senior military official for Palau, said at the conclusion of the meeting held May 3 and 4.
"I firmly believe these forums foster relationships, rapport and a shared understanding that is critical to the defense of the Micronesian region," the commander of Joint Region Marianas added.
According to a press release from INDOPACOM, the JCM agenda included defense responsibilities, infrastructure building, environmental protection procedures, and regional military training.
The U.S. military plans to install over-the-horizon radar in Palau by 2026 to augment its early-warning capabilities in the region as China beefs up its military.
In December, the Department of Defense awarded a U.S.$120 million contract for construction of reinforced foundations and pads in Palau for tactical mobile radar equipment, which provides greater range than line-of-sight radar.
Nicholson met with Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr., Maj. Gen. Jennifer Short, deputy director for Strategic Planning and Policy, and other senior officials of INDOPACOM.
Nicholson reiterated his appreciation for the robust dialogue with Palau
delegation, the broad technical expertise and leadership experience brought
to the table and he thanked them for their partnership during his tour.
"It has been my honor and privilege to represent INDOPACOM during my tenure in the region and especially here during another excellent engagement with the leadership of Palau," Nicholson said. "The experiences I've had with you all have been nothing short of spectacular and I look forward to watching how the great progress made here manifests in our mission in the Pacific."
The JCM is an avenue for direct dialogue on issues related to Palau’s Compact of Free Association with the U.S.