(FSM Public Information Office) On Monday August 14, 2023, the Vice-President of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Honorable Aren B. Palik led a country delegation to the 2023 Joint Committee Meeting between the Federated States of Micronesia and the United States of America.
By way of general background, the genesis of the JCM process is referenced under the Title III provision of the Compact of Free-Association Treaty, as amended, and serves as consultative mechanism whereby high-level officials from both Governments gather, on an annual basis, to discuss common issues of mutual importance to both countries, under the purview of security and defense, and related engagements. For the first time in the history of the JCM process, the bilateral engagement was held in Kosrae State at the Rose Mackwelung Library, under the warm and hospitable welcome of the Governor of Kosrae, the Honorable Tulensa W. Palik.
Among others, the primary areas of discussion included an overview of the INDO-PACOM security theater with emphasis on current regional security challenges in the INDO-PACIFIC region, a brief of INDO-PACOM J44 Joint Posture Management which includes an overview of US Department of Defence’s (DOD) construction and infrastructure projects in the FSM, particularly in areas of airfield modernization and port upgrades, updates on ongoing and future engagements of US Marine Forces in the FSM with specific reference to the ongoing Taskforce Koa Moana exercise which saw an estimated 100 US Marines deployed to the Kosrae, Chuuk, Yap and Pohnpei that resulted in the development of small scale construction and medical/health trainings. Discussions on the US Air Force’s portfolio in the FSM were also held which included substantive updates on the ongoing airport and seaport improvement projects in Yap and the successful 333 program which has led to the provisioning of essential airfield and security support equipment. Discussions on the Pacific Fleet’s maritime posture were also highlighted, confirming FSM’s participation in the upcoming Pacific Partnership 2024 scheduled to be held in January in Chuuk and Pohnpei. The FSM also submitted its continued interest for the salvage operation of Micro Dawn in Chuuk, the Micro Glory in Pohnpei as well as the Micro Spirit in Yap. Mutual interests were also confirmed for shoal removal in the Kosrae channel which continues to be a risk for passenger and cargo vessels. Activity updates of the US Coast Guard in the FSM were also discussed with highlights on the successful conclusion of the extended Shiprider Agreement, successes of recent Search & Rescue Operations (SAR) as well as the successful selection of Mr. Kaipo Sigrah to attend the US Coast Guard Academy. A variety of progressive activities were also referenced in the meeting describing on-going activities of the US Army in the FSM which, among others, included deployment of air defense assets for the Yap airport. Under this specific agenda, mutual interests of support were confirmed for the planned construction of a memorial shrine at the Capital complex in Palikir in honor of those brave fallen ones who made the ultimate sacrifice. The meeting concluded with cooperative discussions on the ways forward for a prompt constitution of the FSM-US Defense Site Working Group with emphasis on the critical need for consultations to be undertaken with all stakeholders at the State, municipal and community levels as well as a brief presentation of the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance. Discussions on the FSM’s continued interest for access to US' excess properties for which a general brief of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) was requested in the next JCM.
General discussions were also held on ongoing support for law enforcement trainings and essential equipment support, as well as interests for the placement and strengthening of Camps of the Civic Action Team (CAT) in the FSM. As with prior JCM engagements, the FSM was provided an opportunity to submit its primary security concerns and, among others, submitted the oil leakages from shipwrecks in Chuuk State as an area needing critical support and assistance. General references were also made on the impact of climate change in the overall security apparatus of the INDO-PACIFIC which were acknowledged and welcomed. In addition, confirmed interests were made on FSM’s request for expansion of the Chuuk dock, the inclusion of Kosrae State in the annual Operation Christmas Drop, and the possibility of building capacity for Kosrae airfield to respond to disasters. An exciting, but crucial interest that was also examined was the possibility of ASVAB testing in Chuuk.
The 2023 Joint Committee Meeting was peppered with social events with a welcoming dinner hosted by the Honorable Vice-President Aren B. Palik, a lunch hosted by the US and, in keeping with the spirit of unity, a closing dinner was hosted by the Honorable Vice-Speaker Robson U. Romolow of the 23rd FSM Congress, as well as a gift exchange program to commemorate the historic hosting.
With support of national and state staff, primary principals accompanying Vice-President Palik included the Governor of Kosrae State T.H. Tulensa W. Palik, the Governor of Chuuk State T.H. Alexander Narruhn and T.H. Lt Governor Francis Itimai of Yap State.
For the US delegation, Rear Admiral Gregory Huffman, Commander of the Joint Region Marianas and Charge Alissa Bibb of the US Embassy in the FSM led the delegation with essential personnel from the US Armed Forces.