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USCG strengthens ties with Palau


President Surangel Whipps of Palau, front (blue shirt), poses for a group photo while attending an executive level joint committee meeting at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration building in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, March 20. Photo courtesy pf USCG/Petty Office 1 Class John Bellino

USCG


Honolulu — Reflecting an ongoing commitment to regional stability and enhanced cooperation, U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam, in a pivotal managerial and support role, participated alongside the U.S. Coast Guard 14th District and regional partners in a high-level Joint Committee Meeting with Palau in Honolulu from March 18 to 22.


This strategic engagement, part of a series of bilateral discussions aimed at bolstering mutual defense and security initiatives, saw key representatives from both nations deliberating on a wide range of topics crucial to the partnership.


Palau's delegation was led by President Surangel S. Whipps Jr., Ambassador Hersey Kyota, and other high-ranking officials and state governors, showcasing the breadth of commitment to this vital alliance.


The U.S. delegation was led by notable figures, including Ambassador Joel Ehrenreich, Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman, commander of Joint Region Marianas, and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) senior military official for Guam, CNMI, FSM, and Republic of Palau, Brig. Gen. Neil Richardson, the J5 deputy Plans and Policy Division, and Capt. William Woityra, the J35 division chief, Oceania Policy Division at INDOPACOM, underlining the significance the United States places on its relationship with Palau.


"Our ongoing talks and shared commitments with our friends in Palau are absolutely vital. It's these heart-to-heart discussions that ensure we're not only on the same page but also genuinely understanding and valuing each other's perspectives and challenges," said Capt. Simmons, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia Sector Guam.


"I want to personally thank the Palauan delegation. Working with you all has been incredibly rewarding. The incredible hospitality our crews experience every time we're in Palau truly makes all the difference and makes it feel like coming home. Here's to our continued partnership and the strong bond between our nations."


The meeting in Honolulu marks a continuation of the productive dialogue established in previous engagements, focusing on key issues such as defense, health, and environmental stewardship. President Whipps expressed gratitude for the ongoing support under the Compact of Free Association, highlighting the importance of the compact as a cornerstone of mutual agreement and the efforts to enhance relations in Angaur, as well as the critical need for preparedness in light of potential security challenges.


Huffman discussed the upcoming changes in the INDOPACOM command structure, notably the establishment of Joint Task Force Micronesia, which signifies the deepening of regional strategic ties. The discussions also addressed various challenges, including the need for assistance in healthcare, the implications of cyber threats, and the intricacies of local development projects.


Throughout the meeting, the U.S. Coast Guard's role was highlighted as instrumental in promoting safety, security, and cooperation in the maritime domain. Achievements from the Department of Defense and federal colleagues over the past year were reviewed, including significant engagements and the planning of future initiatives aimed at further solidifying the partnership.


Noteworthy among these were the U.S. Coast Guard COFA maritime advisor and COFA liaison officer's presentation, outlining a year's worth of accomplishments and future endeavors with Palau partners.


The JCM concluded on a high note with a reception hosted by Rear Adm. Michael Day, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard 14th District, at the Diamond Head Lighthouse. Both delegations expressed a renewed commitment to their partnership and outlined a series of future activities and engagements.


For the U.S. Coast Guard, these include the search and rescue exercise planned for late May, an aids to navigation subject matter expert exchange scheduled for April or May, and the anticipated arrival of the Microbeacon Barge aboard USCGC Hickory (WLB 212) later in 2024. The discussions also touched on the importance of continued enhanced bilateral agreement operations, the attendance of Palauans at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and various training initiatives scheduled for the coming year.


"As the U.S. Coast Guard and the Republic of Palau look forward to these upcoming endeavors, the enduring strength of our partnership remains a testament to our shared commitment to regional stability, security, and prosperity," said Simmons.



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