U.S. NO LONGER HAS SAME PACIFIC VISION:

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AMBASSADOR WILKINSON

HONOLULU, Hawaii - (March 31, 1998 - PIDP/CPIS/Hulsen)---"Washington is looking for the cheapest possibly way to maintain relations" with the countries of the Pacific Islands region, says retired U.S. Ambassador James Wilkinson.

"Trade not aid," is the current buzzword in Washington, as U.S. funding becomes increasingly difficult to find or justify for Pacific Islands region development, Wilkinson noted, since "no more bloody daggers" are pointed toward the Pacific by Japan, Russia or China -- which earlier drove U.S. Pacific policy.

The retired diplomat told journalists meeting in Honolulu last week that "We don't have the vision we used to have toward our current and former insular possessions," with much of Washington now seeing the Pacific nations as simply a "money sink, taking on weight like a rock."

Wilkinson believes continued U.S. involvement in the region is essential, particularly in those nations with U.S. Compacts of Free Association --the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

Not renewing the Compacts when they start coming due in 2001, he suggests, will be a "nightmare," resulting in a tragic drop in the islanders' standard of living.

Among the matters of continuing concern to the U.S. he said, are keeping Pacific sea lanes open, maintaining satellite ground stations, assuring the continuance of fisheries, development of mineral deposits and protecting the environment.

"We have to live up to our obligations," said the retired Ambassador, including helping prevent political instability and the growth of criminal influences in Pacific nations.

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