Pompeo: ‘Small islands are big strongholds of freedom’

Pompeo shaking a woman's hand, flanked by two men (© Jonathan Ernst/AP Images)
From left: Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine and Palau Vice President Raynold Oilouch (© Jonathan Ernst/AP Images)

In a sign of the U.S. commitment to countries large and small in the Indo-Pacific region, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced August 5 that the United States plans to negotiate longer national security agreements with three Pacific island nations.

The announcement came after a day of meetings between Pompeo and leaders of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau on the island of Pohnpei, Micronesia.

“I am here to reaffirm the United States will help you protect your sovereignty, your security, your right to live in freedom and peace,” the secretary said.

The three nations, collectively known as the Freely Associated States, have enjoyed a special relationship with the U.S. since gaining independence. As President David Panuelo of Micronesia explained, “Enshrined in our Compact of Free Association, [the U.S.] protects our citizens as though we are citizens of the United States … and we’re deeply proud of that.”

The presidents of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau visited Washington in May, when they met with President Trump.

“Your small islands are big strongholds of freedom,” said Pompeo, the most senior member of a U.S. administration to visit any of the Freely Associated States. “You share our vision for an open and free Indo-Pacific.”

Earlier in the trip, the secretary traveled to Thailand, where he met with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Lower Mekong Initiative, before heading to Sydney to meet with Australian officials.