Following President Panuelo’s Call for Increased U.S. Engagement with the Pacific, Including Tackling Climate Change, Advancing Democracy & a Free & Open-Indo-Pacific, Secretary Blinken Announces President Biden to Host Forthcoming Pacific Island Conferen

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Press Release

Following President Panuelo’s Call for Increased U.S. Engagement with the Pacific, Including Tackling Climate Change, Advancing Democracy & a Free & Open-Indo-Pacific, Secretary Blinken Announces President Biden to Host Forthcoming Pacific Island Conference of Leaders in Honolulu

 

PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On February 12th, 2022, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—virtually met with the Honorable Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States of America, the Honorable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Acting Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, and other Pacific Island Leaders, to discuss issues of mutual interest, such as tackling the Climate Change crisis, strengthening democratic principles and norms, and otherwise advancing a Free & Open Indo-Pacific.

 

Acting Prime Minister Sayed-Khaiyum opened the meeting, describing Fiji’s broad appreciation for the U.S. re-engaging with Pacific Island Countries. Among other items, the Acting Prime Minister requested the return of the U.S. Peace Corps to Fiji and Pacific Island Countries.

 

Secretary Blinken spoke next, speaking at length about the U.S. having common interests, as well as values, with Pacific Island Countries, such as the preservation of a Free & Open Indo-Pacific and tackling the Climate Change crisis which, President Panuelo noted, was rightly described as “literally an existential issue.” The Secretary spoke of the United States’ support for the Pacific Islands Forum as a powerful vehicle for Pacific nations to speak with one voice, and described in detail how the United States seeks to play a more consistent and larger role within the Pacific.

 

President Panuelo spoke next, and his remarks will by extension constitute the bulk of this release. After sharing solidarity with the Kingdom of Tonga (a sentiment shared unanimously by all attending parties), President Panuelo first spoke on the issue of Climate Change. “In the interest of brevity, I will get right to the point. The issues facing the Federated States of Micronesia are well-known, and so are the solutions. Climate Change remains the greatest existential threat facing our Nation and the Indo-Pacific region. It represents a national security threat to our Nation, and our citizens lives and livelihoods. What Micronesia needs to see our American allies do is to successfully pass the original multi-trillion-dollar Build Back Better legislation, as promised to the global community at COP26. Genuine American leadership on tackling Climate Change in this manner is essential towards convincing Australia, India, China, and other countries that solving this matter of life and death is also in our collective economic and social interest. Passing that legislation shows the leadership of speaking through actions, not words,” President Panuelo said.

 

“Climate Change can only be defeated by a global community dedicated to fairness, equality, democracy, and the rule of law. For our first and foremost ally, the United States, that might include passing your proposed Freedom to Vote Act and strengthening democratic participation at home. For Micronesia, that might include passing our proposed Freedom of Information Act so that our citizens know what their Government is doing on their behalf. For our entire region, that absolutely must mean the advancement of a Free & Open Indo-Pacific,” President Panuelo continued.

 

The President then defined his interpretation of what a Free & Open Indo-Pacific means, saying “A Free & Open Indo-Pacific means that peace, security, stability, and freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean is inseparable from peace, security, stability, and freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean. Crucially, this freedom and openness is the result of the international rules-based order and the rule of law.”

 

Moving onwards to the Compact of Free Association, President Panuelo said “Any law or group of laws, taken in isolation, run the risk of amounting to just words on paper, no matter how noble their intent. Those laws must be backed by both tangible and intangible things, and the actions of people who believe in them and enforce them. It is for this reason, as well as the general prosperity of our people, that the Federated States of Micronesia seeks the timely conclusion on the negotiations of our Compact of Free Association, and with the aim that our Enduring Partnership be so much the envy of other Indo-Pacific countries that they, too, will purposefully seek to strengthen their relations with the People & Government of the United States of America.”

 

President Panuelo concluded his remarks by saying “Welcome, Secretary Blinken, to the Blue Pacific Continent. I solicit your support that today’s meeting be the beginning of an increase in engagement from the United States of America to all Pacific Island Countries. To show our solidarity, I announce today that the Federated States of Micronesia, following consultations among Leaders of the Micronesian Presidents’ Summit, and on the basis of consensus, temporarily rescinds the withdrawal by the Federated States of Micronesia from the PIF Agreement in order to take a ‘pause’ on its withdrawal from the PIF from being effective, and to allow for specific substantive reforms of the PIF leadership to materialize by June 2022 and no later.”

 

The other Pacific Island Countries attending the meeting spoke at length about mutually shared challenges, such as the Climate Change crisis, and public health, economic health, and ocean issues.

 

Secretary Blinken provided closing remarks, announcing that the U.S. Government is looking forward for U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to host the forthcoming Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, of which President Panuelo is the Chair, to occur in-person in Honolulu, Hawaii, and with the intent for that meeting to continue the conversation at the highest level, and follow-up on many of the ideas raised in the discussion during the February 12th meeting.

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