The U.S. Defence Department is to report to the U.S. Congress by December 1 on a range of security concerns in the US-affiliated north Pacific island area as the Defence Department is reviewing the strategic importance of the Compacts of Free Association for the United States as part of a broad study of security issues related to the freely associated states of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
All three nations have long-term treaties with the U.S. that give Washington control of defence and security in an area of the north Pacific the size of the continental U.S., the Marianas Variety reports.
The study is also evaluating the implications for American defence and foreign policy interests of the People’s Republic of China economic aid in the freely associated states.
The study was mandated by the 2018 National Defence Authorisation Act passed late last year by the U.S. Congress. It is to be submitted to defence committees of the House and Senate no later than December 1 this year. The report is to be issued in unclassified form but may include classified attachments.
What is significant is that this is the first study of its kind during the Compact Two period — which started in 2004 — by the Defence Department at the direction of the U.S. Congress.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office has conducted several evaluations of US aid and other issues related to the Compacts of Free Association since the start of the second Compact funding period in 2004. It issued its latest study last week on use of U.S. funding by the Marshall Islands and FSM, and transition issues for the governments as they gear for use of trust fund money when U.S. grants end after 2023.
The Congress directed the Defence Department to address security, defence and foreign policy issues related to the Micronesia area. Concern over the impact of China in Micronesia is an underlying issue of the study. China maintains diplomatic ties with the Federated States of Micronesia, while Palau and the Marshall Islands are aligned with Taiwan.