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THE ISLAND TRIBUNE Kolonia, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia


By Seberiano O. Barnabas Kitti Municipal Court Guest Columnist


The Great Pacific Ocean is often taken for granted as an "American Lake," but the strategic value or importance of these scattered island nations and the United States Territories within its basin was proved beyond a reasonable doubt during World War II. With the demise of the former Soviet Union, however, the value of these islands is said, by some American officials, to have decreased. Maybe so, but today one of the numerous threats, which is sometimes viewed as a form of economic espionage, is working toward an economic dominance, not just in the major cities of the world, but within the islands of the Pacific as well.

The economic opportunities and strategic value of these scattered islands have been taken for granted, and in most cases ignored by the American officials. If that is the case, what of a new trend of people from around the globe (especially Asians) who are interested in the Pacific Islands? For some of them, this vested interest in the region has always been there, and was only interrupted by the Second World War. The newer ones have only developed at the outset of the post-Cold War era. These people are not Americans. Most of them are from the Asian countries.

The countries so far that have a vested interest in the Pacific Islands include: Japan, China, South Korea, the Philippines, and even Taiwan. All of these countries are close neighbors to the Pacific Islands.

There are clear indications that other Southeast Asian countries have been "jumping on the bandwagon" of developing some interest in the great Pacific Basin. Therefore, if the United States remains reluctant in addressing the vulnerable economic and political issues of the former "Rust" Territories and the newly "Frustrated" States of Micronesia, they could easily fall prey to those powers in the Asian/Pacific area. It is very probable, for both the economic and the strategic advantages, to slip into the possession of those interested Asian countries.

Today, more than ever, the United States should invest in more efforts to assist the United States Territories and the Freely Associated States in every way possible, in order to enhance and continue the solid goodwill relationship with them. At the same time, more efforts should be concentrated on monitoring the political, economic, military, and industrial activities that are gradually penetrating these American territories and the Freely Associated States, especially in the western Pacific.

The Freely Associated States of Micronesia nations are experiencing a transition from over 200 years of colonial rule to independence and are "testing the waters" in the international arena. It seems that the new nations of Micronesia are becoming less important, while the major industrial countries on each side of the Pacific are increasingly becoming interdependent, and are enormously growing economically and politically stable. It appears as if these regions are being enormously ignored and left behind.

The condition is so crucial that the Island nations are at the risk of becoming worse than "Third World" countries. However, the inhabitants are continuing to pursue a political status they believe will be more secure and effective for the well-being and the prosperity of the islands' social, political and economic security.

If the United States maintains its present stage of reluctance, it will be possible for an Asian country, or a group of Asian countries, to gain power and take control over these island nations by providing leadership and assistance to the developing nations of the Pacific Region. It is also equally important for the United States to take a speedy step in establishing proper foreign policies that can promote the living standard, as well as the moral destiny, of these islands' people.

One Dr. Meleisia once stated, "At present, Asians' interest (in the Pacific) is reminiscent of the European powers in the mid 19th century. Primarily one of exploitative resource extraction. The Pacific Islands are going through a geopolitical transition, from the sphere of European-American influence, to that of Asian influence. What are the political and economic implications for the Pacific Island societies of an Asian-controlled Pacific?" What Dr. Meleisia did not mention is that some of the countries in the Pacific Islands are not only interested in the marine and other resources here, but are very much interested in monitoring Western activities, gathering information, and of course, analyzing the intentions of the countries involved. How else can one explain the presence of the Chinese fishing fleets in the waters around Chuuk, Kwajalein, Enewetak, Bikini, and other islands in Micronesia? These fishing vessels only have licenses to fish for the skipjack species of the tuna family, that are most of the time off-season, but Chinese fishing fleets still hang around.

Kwajalein Atoll, one of the Micronesia islands, is home for one of the United States Missile Tracking Stations and the smaller islands around it serve as the target reference points for the practice missiles that are launched from the Continental United States.

The United States Army-Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) oversees the military activity that protects the American interests here and supports the American national security overall. Isn't this the main reason for the Chinese vessels' presence in the waters around the Marshall Islands and throughout Micronesia? Could it also be probable that the Chinese ships have the capability to collect and also analyze information?

Both the United States of America and the Pacific Island nations are faced with this crucial issue of whether the strategic value or importance of the scattered island nations and the United States territories still holds? Common sense will prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that under the compact of Free Association, specific provisions such as "denial right" and "military access" are intended by the framers of this Pact, for the purpose of securing these regions for national security. No doubt about it.

July 9, 1998

The Island Tribune P.O. Box 2222 Kolonia, Pohnpei Federated States of Micronesia 96941 TEL: (691) 320-8888 FAX: (691) 320-8888 E-MAIL: WWW:

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