Three sovereign, self-governing Pacific Island nations that are part of the Compact of Free Association are considering their future ties with the United States. For those of you who don’t know what the Compact consists of, its basically an agreement between the U.S. and three Pacific island nations “to promote the development of the people of the Trust Territory toward self-government or independence as appropriate to the particular circumstances of the Trust Territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.”
Reportedly, the People’s Republic of China, among others, have begun to invest in the three countries in order to increase their influence.
The three island nations are the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Palau. Collectively, they are, at times, known as the Freely Associated States. Mainland United States citizens are generally pretty unaware that these nations nations even exist, let alone the fact that they receive millions in direct aid from the United States every year.
To put this into context, the Compact received $214 million last year in addition to help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Weather Service and the U.S. Postal Service.
This is somewhat timely given the ongoing issues regarding immigration that the United States are currently wrapped up in. The aforementioned CFA also allows certain citizens of the three nations to live in and visit all of the 50 states as legal non-immigrants without needing a visa, meaning that they could potentially work, live, and study within the United States for an indefinite amount of time. In addition, United States citizens are granted a similar permit within the three nations. The permit also makes allowances for the United States military, a right that is not shared by militaries of other nations under the agreement.
In 2011, the State Department told Congress that “our relationship with not only Palau but with other FAS states (permits) the United States to guard its long-term defense and strategic interest in the region.” Maybe now you’re starting to understand why this is important. You see, Palau, and the other two island nations, help “create a security zone that safeguards U.S. interests in the Pacific.”
As of right now, China, Arab states and Cuba are “actively courting Palau and the other Pacific island nations as they seek to build influence in the region.” We don’t need to tell you what that means, now do we?