Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Federated States of Micronesia President David W. Panuelo, Republic of the Marshall Islands President Hilda C. Heine, and Republic of Palau Vice President and Minister of Justice Raynold B. Oilouch at a Press Availability
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
FSM Government Compound
Palikir, Federated States of Micronesia
August 5, 2019
PRESIDENT PANUELO: Thank you, Chief of Staff Falcam. As is our tradition, before I speak, I also pay my deepest respects to the traditional leaders of Pohnpei and throughout the FSM. Good evening to all of you. What an incredible honor and privilege to welcome you all to Palakir, the capital, our paradise, the Federated States of Micronesia. Secretary Pompeo, the first lady was just meeting Susan, Mrs. Pompeo, and she says that when you were approaching Pohnpei, she feels like she was looking at a postcard. So thank you. We were really honored that your delegation was able to make it here with a little bit of daylight so that you can see the lush tropical forests that we have. Welcome.
The recent visit to Washington, D.C. by the Micronesia presidents recently at the invitation of President Donald Trump – what an historic visit. And Secretary Pompeo, your visit to Micronesia is an historic visit as well. We truly welcome you, Secretary, as a friend. It makes our hearts very glad to welcome a true friend to the Federated States of Micronesia.
I want to extend on behalf of the people of the Federated States of Micronesia our sincere gratitude to you, Secretary Pompeo, for taking time to stop over to meet with us. We know you are a very, very busy official of the United States, a representative of the President. We thank you for visiting us, for visiting us to meet President Heine, President Oilouch of Palau, and myself. The press conference is in an historic location as well. Standing here, I don't think we've had this many media people that is generated because of your visit, so we know very well that this visit is an historic one and will surely shine the world's spotlight on our islands. We thank you for that.
Secretary, in our meetings – just concluded in our bilateral meetings, thank you. It was fruitful and productive, and I know the same has happened with fruitful meetings with the president of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and also the vice president of Palau. We look forward to sharing the outcome of our meetings between true friends, FSM and the rest of the FAS, or the Freely Associated countries, have the closest and most unique relationship with the United States. Secretary, we welcome you to our island, and know that you're a true friend in our country. We look forward to exchanging the outcomes of our meetings with a press conference during this event. Thank you all, and again, welcome to the Federated States of Micronesia, Secretary Pompeo. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, President Panuelo and President Heine, and Vice President Oilouch. Thank you for the positive, productive meetings today. It is the case, when we flew in, it was absolutely beautiful, and for anyone watching, this is a great place just to come visit. All of them, not just here, but the Marshall Islands as well as Palau. I would encourage everyone to come, bring your family, spend money, and you will be – you will love to meet the wonderful people of these great friends of the United States.
President Panuelo, I'm deeply honored to be the first Secretary of State to ever visit your wonderful country. There's no clearer statement of America's commitment to strong partnerships and alliances than showing up in person, so it's a real honor for me to be here today. As I have been traveling in the region, as I conveyed at the ASEAN meetings in Bangkok, the United States of America's commitment to this region is truly unparalleled. We want to help nations of the Indo-Pacific continue their decades-long rise and maintain their sovereignty, both in the political and economic spheres. With that in mind, I was pleased to meet today with each of these three presidents – from the Marshall Islands, from Micronesia – and the vice president of Palau. Your small islands are big strongholds of freedom.
You've supported our campaigns of pressure and diplomacy with North Korea, and you vote with the United States at the United Nations as consistently as our dear friends Australia or the United Kingdom. And importantly, your citizens serve in the United States military at per capita rates higher than most U.S. states. This is a real sacrifice, and something which the American people are most grateful to you and your citizens for. And importantly too, you share our vision for an open and free Indo-Pacific, the basic ideas of sovereignty, the rule of law, transparency, and openness – unalienable rights. These are the building blocks that are a recipe for sustainable economic prosperity and human flourishing.
With that solid foundation in place, today our countries were able to build on the progress made at the White House this past May when you met with President Trump. That visit, like this one, was unprecedented on the day our four nations declared our unique, historic, and special relationships, and we resolved to continue our close cooperation. And so today, I am here to reaffirm the United States will help you protect your sovereignty, your security, your right to live in freedom and peace. Just as we did during World War II, we will oppose any larger nation's attempt to turn the Pacific Islands into footholds for regional dominance.
Beyond defense and security, the United States will continue to offer assistance with natural disasters and will continue to help you build strong societies by supporting the Young Pacific Leaders initiative. And we'll join with you to tackle health challenges too. We talked about that at some length. We'll help keep your economies competitive and strengthen your democratic institutions.
And finally, we're taking concrete action to solidify our bonds. Today, I'm pleased to announce that the United States has begun negotiations on extending our respective compacts of free association with each country. These compacts help sustain the important strategic partnerships that the Freely Associated States have had with the United States since World War II. They sustain important economic assistance for the people of these countries. They sustain democracy and human rights in the face of Chinese attempts to redraw the Pacific in its authoritarian image. Today, your citizens, this region of the world can see the Trump administration and its enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific, and our appreciation for the strong friendships here. Thank you.
PRESIDENT HEINE: Thank you, President Panuelo, Vice President Oilouch, and Secretary Pompeo. Ladies and gentlemen, today our three FAS countries have really harnessed constructive discussions with the United States on the future of our relationship, bilaterally, regionally, and globally. I'm very pleased with the outcome of our meeting with Secretary Mike Pompeo. Our talks today remind us that our relationship with the United States isn't merely economic. It is based on shared history, mutual respect, and shared principles. Secretary Pompeo is official in announcement of compact dialogue to begin shortly is a clear indication of the U.S. government to our region. As I said to the Secretary, the RMI is committed and ready to renew and reiterate our friendship, and to work together on building a strong, secure, vibrant, stable, and prosperous region.
Together, our three countries control a considerable part of the Pacific Ocean, including valuable shipping lanes. If this is not protected, it becomes vulnerable and can become unstable. We cannot do it alone; we need to work together. I thank President Trump for his respect and recognition of this region. The first FAS Presidents' working visit to Washington, D.C. was historic and very timely. There are those who will ask, "Why now, after all these years?" And I say to them, "Why not?" Through all these years, the FAS have never waivered from being the U.S. number one ally. That is what true faithful friends do.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, and RMI looks forward to working with our friends from the United States to increase focus on economic security, on climate change's impacts, and health security related to radiation. I wish to thank Secretary Pompeo for inviting me over to meet. I thank Palau vice president for his valuable participation and contribution to today's meeting. I thank President Panuelo, the first lady, and the people of the FSM for the gracious hospitality. I also convey my personal condolences to President Panuelo on the recent untimely passing of a family member. Similarly, I convey my personal condolences to President Remengesau, whose father, President Remengesau Sr., former Palau president, passed away over the weekend. Our prayers go to both families. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT PANUELO: Thank you.
VICE PRESIDENT OILOUCH: Good evening, everybody. First of all, let me thank President Panuelo for hosting us here in Pohnpei – also President Heine. Most of all, I would like to welcome Secretary of State Pompeo to this side of the Pacific. It makes us feel very important when the Secretary of State Pompeo travels all the way to the Pacific, this area. It also reinforces the fact that the three FAS states have a special relationship with the United States that is very important to all of us here. We also thank President Trump because of – during his presidency, our presidents, our Micronesian presidents have gone to the White House to meet with him, and that also makes us very proud that we are an important partner of the United States. And then of course, Secretary Pompeo traveling all the way here to meet the leaders of Micronesia.
Palau feels that its relationship with the United States is a very important one. We truly value and we believe in the United States mission and goal that this part of the world should be free and open to the world. And so again, we welcome you, Mr. Pompeo, to the Pacific, and we will be working with you and with United States to fulfill what we believe will be a secured Pacific, Indo-Pacific region. Thank you so much.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay, we'll be takin two questions. We'll start with Bill Jaynes from Kaselehlie Press.
QUESTION: Hi. Good evening. Welcome, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir.
QUESTION: I have to say that I'm floored and very thrilled about the announcement about the pact dialogue. That was my question, but I'll ask another. Has there been any thought about the possibility of moving the relationship management from Interior to State, your department?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So, when the discussion begins, one has to concede that there's been thought given to it, not – the truth, we – look, we'll take a look. We'll see what makes good sense for each of us. We want to make sure we get it right. We want to get it right for the next decades as well. And so I don't really have much to add other than I'm aware that there's a desire to potentially make a shift in terms of how that's handled, and we're happy to take a look and see if we can ensure that we get it right, that – it certainly matters exactly how it gets handled inside the United States government, but often times, it's make sure you get the process right. And so that's what we're really focused on.
QUESTION: Absolutely. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You're most welcome, sir.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Mosheh Gains, NBC.
QUESTION: Thank you guys for doing this. Mr. Secretary, with the discussions today, was climate change discussed and its effects on the islands? And do you believe it's an existential threat? And then secondly, one on China: What's your message to the Pacific Island nations in regards to China's growing influence in the region?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I'm happy to take each of those, but I'd love to hear from my friends here, too. We did talk about climate change. We talked about the concerns about rising sea levels here. The United States has consistently met the objectives that are sitting in the Paris agreement while having left that agreement. We've done well. We know that the data is very clear that developed nations are less likely to do the things that present the risk of climate change, and so one of the things we can all do, not just here but around the world, is take nations towards – or to help those nations have lower carbon emissions. Those are all true. And then we talked a great deal about disaster mitigation, disaster prevention, and the kinds of things the United States might be able to present assistance on that would protect and preserve these beautiful places.
When we spoke about China, we – I spoke about it, and we all collectively spoke about it in the sense of we've had a long and deep relationship. These are freedom loving nations and freedom loving peoples that have value sets that are deeply consistent with those of the United States. It's why these relationships have lasted the length that they have. And so my presence here today, the Trump administration's commitment to the region, is precisely what it will take to make sure that these nations can continue to have the security that they need, the economic development they need so that they can continue to do what these nations have done, right – democratic values, voting for freedom and liberty, and doing all the right things in the world.
And the – we know China seeks to engage and to influence this region, but I'm convinced that the people of the Marshall Islands, the people of Palau, and the people where we're sitting here today understand that having partners that are democratic – the United States, but Australia, Japan – the other Pacific democracies are the best partnerships for the people that will continue to make their lives better in the years and decades ahead. And I know you directed it at me, but I'd love to hear from some of my friends since this is where we're at.
PRESIDENT PANUELO: Thank you, Secretary Pompeo. I wish to join my colleagues from the Marshall Islands and Palau in saying how grateful our countries are, Secretary Pompeo, for the United States providing security, peace, and stability, and freedom of navigation in our bigger region, the Indo-Pacific region. We thank you for that role.
While visiting the United States, in terms of the issue of China, when we met assistant secretary – or Acting Secretary Shanahan at the Department of Defense, in terms of our relationship with China, I did assure the secretary, and I'm assuring you today again, Secretary Pompeo, that our relations with the U.S. is first and foremost. In terms of our relationship with China, our relationship with China is purely on economic and technical cooperation. I want to make that clear in this context, and for U.S. providing the peace and stability in the region. We have our citizens who are serving in the U.S. armed forces. They provide a true commitment in terms of fighting for freedom, and as Secretary Pompeo said, they serve at the highest rate in terms of per capita, and we're very proud of that.
And thank you, Secretary, for taking time. I understand that this schedule will be to also pay respects to the fallen soldiers here through a wreath-laying ceremony that would be – I will be joining you in a little bit. But in fact, what we're proud of in terms of the United States relationship with the Freely Associated States, the fact that U.S., enshrined in our Compact of Free Association, protects our citizens as though we are citizens of the United States, or protect our nation as though we are one of your states in the United States. And we're deeply proud of that. Before going further, Secretary, you did tell me to take credit for your visit in terms of the news that you're bringing. I think the news – that is really big news for the Federated States of Micronesia, for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and for the Republic of Palau. It's the fact that when we were in Washington, D.C., invited by President Donald Trump, Secretary Pompeo was so kind to host a working lunch at the – was it the Monroe Room?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
PRESIDENT PANUELO: Monroe Room. And I saw you then, Secretary, as a very sincere friend of Micronesia, and the question that he asked us was, "How can we help you?" And Secretary, if you recall – and Madame President – I did ask that you please share with us if you were going to keep the authority or the green light to what is called the negotiating authority in terms of revisiting and renewing the expiring provisions of the compact. And today, I'm really pleased to announce in joining Secretary Pompeo, joining President Hilda, and Vice President Oilouch in sharing with our citizens and our nation that President Pompeo is here to deliver and reciprocate the favor when we ask him about the negotiating authority.
The big news is that President Pompeo has delivered to us that he's given the green light on the negotiating authority to begin negotiating the expiring provisions of our compact, and we're deeply appreciative of that, and our citizens, I know, throughout the nation, are anxiously waiting for the big news, and here it is with the news – is streaming. I believe that this is an incredible honor, Mr. Secretary, that you're able to put down your very busy schedule to visit us in this part of the world. And that reaffirms our enduring relationship between our Freely Associated States and the United States of America. And I thank you for that news, Secretary. It's an honor that we would receive a Secretary of State, which is historic, to welcome you here with such a big news.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.
PRESIDENT PANUELO: Thank you so much, Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.
PRESIDENT PANUELO: Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all.
 Secretary Pompeo
 Secretary Pompeo
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