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Pacific News Minute: U.S. exchanges financial aid for security rights in the Indo-Pacific

Joe Biden
Susan Walsh/AP
President Joe Biden, center, poses for a photo with Pacific Island leaders on the North Portico of the White House in Washington, Sept. 29, 2022. From left, New Caledonia President Louis Mapou, Tonga Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni, Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr., Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano, Micronesia President David Panuelo, Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Biden, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape, Marshall Islands President David Kabua, Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, French Polynesia President Edouard Fritch and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown.

The U.S. signed “memorandums of understanding” with the Marshall Islands and Palau earlier this month.

Administration officials hope they will lead to broader agreements that will govern the islands' relations with the U.S. for the next two decades.

Those ties grant the U.S. unique military and other security rights on the islands in return for a large amount of financial aid.

The Associated Press reports the administration believes that extending these “Compacts of Free Association” agreements will be key to maintaining American influence and holding off Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific.

The memorandums lay out the amounts of money that the federal government will pay to the two countries if their compacts are successfully renegotiated.

A memorandum is still being negotiated with Micronesia, the third compact country.

Islanders have long complained that previous compacts they signed did not adequately address their long-term environmental and health issues caused by U.S. nuclear testing in the 1950s and '60s.

China has been taking allies away from Taiwan in the Pacific, including Kiribati and the Solomon Islands in 2019.

The U.S. announced plans last year to reopen an embassy in the Solomons, which has signed a security agreement with China.

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
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