On 10 January, 12 January, and 10 February, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) respectively all signed onto memorandum of understandings (MoU) with the United States of America (USA) that will see Palau and FSM receive twice the funding they previously received under their Compact of Free Association (COFA) with RMI receiving quadruple the amount of funding they previously received under their COFA agreement.
These MoUs are very important as it keeps the COFAs in place at least nominally until the US Congress and the other nations’ congresses approve of these deals, hopefully by later this year.
The COFA were deals intituated by President Ronald Reagan that came to light officially for FSM and RMI in 1986 and under President Bill Clinton for Palau in 1994 that gave the United States exclusive military presence in a sea and land combined area that when combined with the US territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), includes contiguous territory the size of the continental US.
This allows the US to patrol most of the world’s commons to make sure free trade, democracy, international law, and the largest global commons in the Pacific Ocean are preserved from certain nefarious actors.
The timing comes at a point when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has sought to control and influence the Pacific to fall under their sphere. In addition to this, FSM’s and RMI’s COFA deals end in 2023, while Palau’s ends in 2024.
The COFA States are the closest countries to the USA and share the same military, the same postal service, and many other services that connect all four nations to each other.
Some notable facts include that these states often have a higher percentage of their citizens serving in the US Military than most US States, and these states often have their citizens educated in the USA.
The USA is still trying to create longitudinal and latitudinal straight line chains of defense, that effectively see US territories with Guam, CNMI, American Somoa, Hawaii (US state), and other territories of the US such as Wake Island and Midway Island combined with nearby foreign nations to host US Military or US allies like Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom (UK), France, Japan, South Korea, and the Republic of China (Taiwan; unofficial ally) to patrol these waters to protect against illegal activity by other countries and groups. By creating these straight line of defense, the USA can better protect the Pacific Ocean and its nations quest for freedom, Christianity, and democracy.
Recently, the US signed a deal with the Philippines that will see more US Military stationed in the nation in more locations.
Furthermore, the US is hoping to keep the ASEAN nations under their sphere as they hope more ASEAN nations can work out their differences to confront certain adversarial nations together.
Recently, Vietnam and Indonesia did just that.
In addition, the US hopes to keep the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) under their sphere, and hopes to keep this confederation together. Recently, we heard good news about this too as Kiribati is set to rejoin.
By creating more allies across the Pacific, the USA can keep up a deterrent that would make war less likely. In addition, the US can also make it so that if a war were to break out, that the USA would be heavily prepared with their allies.
A key piece to this puzzle is maintaining an advantage within the bounds of international law, to encourage other foes to follow the law or risk bad press, less influence, less trust, and less allies.
By making sure the COFAs stay in place, the USA can make sure they keep a superior advantage in the Micronesia region.