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Pacific News Minute: U.S. Ambassador Accused of Meddling in Chuuk Independence Vote

Matt Kieffer

As the island of Chuuk prepares for a vote on independence from the Federated States of Micronesia next year, the U.S. Ambassador to the FSM has issued a video that warns of serious consequences.

The islands that make up the Federated States of Micronesia were German colonies seized by Japan in World War I. Chuuk, also known as Truk, became a major base for the Japanese Navy. The so called Gibraltar of the Pacific, and was heavily bombed during the Second World War. 

In 1979, the U.S. Pacific Trust territories of Yap, Chuuk, Phonpei and Kosrae formed the Federated States of Micronesia, which signed a Compact of Free Association with the U.S. in 1986 and achieved independence in 1990.

Advocates of Chuukese independence argue that the most populous island does not receive a proportional share of funds and they object to parts of the U.S. Compact. Their goal is independence, followed by a new and better compact.

In a video, U.S. Ambassador Robert Riley threw cold water on that. The compact arose from the unique circumstances that followed the war, he said, “it is not something we will do again.” Independence would mean a loss of 37 million dollars a year in U.S. funds, the Coast Guard and many other U.S. agencies would leave. And Chuuckese would lose the right to work and live freely in any part of the United States. 

Sabino Asor, chair of the Chuuk Political Status Commission, protested what he said was a sad and insulting effort to influence a local political process, and particularly objected to the Ambassador’s remarks on immigration.

Credit Froztbyte / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Flag of Chuuk

Many Chuukese live in Guam, Hawaii and the mainland U.S., and the possibility of finding themselves in legal limbo is likely to be a major issue in next year’s vote.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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