Palau on Wednesday called for greater US support to build its infrastructure and economy.
The Pacific island state, which finds itself at the heart of a geostrategic struggle between the US and China, and two other Pacific island nations, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, are renegotiating agreements reached with the US in the 1980s that give Washington defense responsibility and the right to military bases in return for economic support.
These accords, known as Compacts of Free Association, are set to expire in 2024 in the case of Palau and next year for the two other states.
Experts and former US officials warn the island nations could look to China for support should the talks fail.
In an address to the UN General Assembly, Palauan Minister of Foreign Affairs Gustav Aitaro said that in an initial review of his country’s compact, the US “proposed unacceptably inadequate assistance.”
However, US President Joe Biden had since then appointed a special envoy “who we trust will get his government to at least meet Palau’s minimum needs so that our people can attain a decent standard of living without having to leave,” Aitaro said.
“This is essential to enabling the relationship to endure, as my government wants,” he said. “It hopes that when we next address the General Assembly, we will be able to report an agreement in this regard.”
Aitaro said Palau needs greater financial and program assistance, as well as public and private investment to expand its economy.
Palau was grateful for the help US and other nations, such as Taiwan and Japan, have provided, Aitaro said.
“But we need more now, just as we need measures to combat and adapt to climate change’s rising seas,” he said, adding that there was a particular need to move Palau’s hospital from land that now regularly floods to higher ground.
Palau had seen some development since signing the compact with the US, “but too little.”
Aitaro also praised Taiwan and said the UN should accept it into its system.
Aitaro’s remarks came a day before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to host a meeting on the sidelines of the event aimed at better coordinating assistance to the Pacific island region.
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