TESTIMONY

admin's picture

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C.
September 23, 1998

SENSE OF THE HOUSE WITH RESPECT TO THE IMPORTANCE OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH PACIFIC ISLAND NATIONS

Testimony pertaining to House of Representatives Resolution 505 by Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), Congressman Doug Bereuter (D-Nebraska) and Congressman Howard Berman (D-California) regarding holding a Pacific Islands Summit at the East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA:

I am deeply appreciative of the efforts of the chairman and ranking Democratic Member of the House Committee on International Relations, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Gilman) and the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Hamilton), for supporting House Resolution 505 as original cosponsors and for passage of the measure before the full committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would also thank the chairman and ranking Democratic members of the Committee on International Relations' Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Doug Bereuter) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Howard Berman), as well as our esteemed colleagues in the full committee, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith), the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) and the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) for joining us as original cosponsors of House Resolution 505.

Mr. Speaker, my thanks also go to the gentlewoman from Hawaii (Mrs. Mink), the gentleman from Guam (Mr. Underwood), the gentleman from Hawaii (Mr. Abercrombie), the gentleman from California (Mr. Matsui) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Kim) for their support of this resolution.

Mr. Speaker, the United States has had a long and extraordinarily deep relationship with our allies and friends of the Pacific Islands. One need only mention the names of Guadalcanal, Midway, Wake Island, Guam and Saipan to recall the critical battles waged in the Pacific during World War II. In that terrible conflict and during the Cold War, our Pacific Island allies have fought and worked alongside Americans to preserve peace and nurture democracy in the Pacific region.

The people of the Marshall Islands, in particular, have made tremendous sacrifices which have greatly contributed to America's nuclear deterrence. During the 1940s and the 1950s the homelands and the Marshallese people were subjected to some 67 U.S. nuclear tests, an ordeal from which they are still struggling to recover.

The contributions of Pacific islanders have truly enhanced American security and stability. Today, a half century later, Mr. Speaker, we should not forget our commitment to our friends in this part of the world.

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of the earth's surface, and spanning it are the 7,500 islands which comprise the 22 Pacific island nations and territories.

Mr. Speaker, while budgetary cutbacks have resulted in a reduced U.S. diplomatic presence in the region, our Nation continues to have substantial interests in the Pacific, whether that be in areas of investment and trade, strategic and regional security, democratic government and human rights, or protection of the environment.

In particular, with the advent of the Law of the Sea Conference and increasing international enforcement of exclusive economic zones, the Pacific island governments wield control over vast tracks of the entire Pacific Ocean. The millions of square miles of the Pacific Ocean under the jurisdiction of island nations encompass productive fisheries, undersea minerals, and important sea lanes, increasingly vital assets in the future of a global economy.

For example, Mr. Speaker, some of the world's richest and most diverse fishing grounds are found in the Pacific region, where the United States nets the bulk of tuna consumed by our fellow Americans. I would note that much of that tuna is processed in canneries in my own district in American Samoa.

On the ocean floor by Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga lie seabed mineral deposits and undersea nodules containing valuable minerals such as manganese, cobalt, nickel, copper, silver and gold. The EEZ waters of the sparsely populated Cook Islands alone are projected to contain at least $150 billion of sea bed nodules.

The lesson has not been lost on Asian nations that have invested in the region, Mr. Speaker, including China, South Korea, and, in particular, Japan. Last October, then Prime Minister Hashimoto of Japan hosted a Tokyo summit meeting with Pacific island heads of government. No doubt, Japan is making a long term investment and an economic investment for the 21st Century.

Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 505 sends the message that it is important for the United States to cultivate diplomatic relations today with the Pacific island nations to foster strong economic ties tomorrow, and this will directly facilitate access to the region's valuable marine resources in the next millennium. For economic as well as strategic reasons, the United States should not permit others to step into the vacuum created by the lack of a strong U.S. policy and presence in the Pacific region.

Mr. Speaker, in furtherance of that goal, House Resolution 505 strongly urges that the President of the United States host a summit meeting with the Pacific island Heads of State and Governments to improve diplomatic relations with the Pacific island nations.

I would humbly suggest the perfect opportunity to conduct the Pacific Island Summit would be upon the President's return from the APEC meeting scheduled for November 1999 in Wellington, New Zealand. Since it is appropriate that the summit meeting take place in the Pacific, I suggest the EAST-WEST CENTER in Hawaii provides the ideal forum. Since its formation in 1960, the EAST-WEST CENTER has been the region's most respected institution for furthering U.S. relations with the Asian-Pacific region.

Before concluding, Mr. Speaker, I would note that an identical counterpart to House Resolution 505 has been introduced this month in the Senate by my good friend and distinguished Senator from Hawaii, Senator Daniel Inouye. Senator Inouye's measure, Senate Resolution 277, has been cosponsored by Senators Dan Akaka, Ted Stevens, Orrin Hatch, Robert Byrd, Craig Thomas, Ernest Hollings, William Roth, Wendell Ford, Barbara Boxer, Frank Murkowski and Jeff Sessions, and is before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee now. I thank and commend Senator Inouye, who has long demonstrated commitment and unmatched leadership in the affairs of the Pacific region.

Mr. Speaker, I would urge that our colleagues support adoption of House Resolution 505 as it is in the national interest of the United States that we preserve strong and enduring economic, political and strategic ties with the Pacific island nations.

America cannot afford to neglect our friends in the Pacific. Adoption of this resolution and the holding of a Pacific Island Summit will ensure that we do not, and that our allies understand that the United States intends to remain firmly engaged in the Pacific region for our mutual benefit.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support and adopt this resolution.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter), the distinguished chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

Mr. BEREUTER. Mr. Speaker, I want to first thank the chairman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H. Res. 505, a resolution recognizing the tremendous importance of the Pacific island region and calling for U.S. participation and, in fact, leadership for a Pacific Island Summit.

This resolution was introduced in July, as you heard, by the distinguished gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega). It is cosponsored in original co-sponsorship by the chairman and ranking member of the full committee, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Gilman) and the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Hamilton) as well as the gentleman from California (Mr. Berman), the ranking member of the subcommittee I chair, and myself, along with other distinguished members of our subcommittee and the full committee.

Mr. Speaker, we unanimously approved of in the subcommittee this resolution on September 9th, and the full Committee on International Relations followed suit the following day, September 10th.

This Member would congratulate particularly the distinguished gentleman from American Samoa for introducing this timely and important resolution. He is rightly recognized throughout this body for his commitment and support for the Pacific islands, and today's resolution certainly reflects that commitment.

Mr. Speaker, while the Pacific island nations are a vast and important region with enormous potential, it is nonetheless true that it has recently largely escaped international attention. Of late, international attention has been focused on the political and social unrest in other parts of Asia, together with the financial crisis and nuclear and missile proliferation. The gentleman from American Samoa is to be commended for reminding this body that the Pacific islands are economically and diplomatically important to the United States, and we ignore them to our detriment.

In the years since the end of the Second World War, the United States policy toward the Pacific islands has been dominated by military and security considerations. Certainly the deep water port facilities, the missile test ranges and the jungle training facilities offered by the Pacific islands were essential considerations during the Cold War. But the legislation before this body today expands the focus beyond the security arena, correctly addressing economic issues, the environment and political cooperation.

It is, I think, self-evident in this Nation's interest to pursue such a broad agenda with these small nations of the Pacific. Endowed with vast natural resources, this ocean continent of islands is poised to make valuable contributions to the global economy. U.S. fishing companies already enjoy fishing rights in certain waters controlled by these nations, and improved diplomatic ties would increase the potential for the United States to further benefit from the Pacific's wealth of resources, as well as benefiting those nations. Similarly, there is an enormous potential to exploit the vast mineral wealth of the Pacific for the benefit of the globe and for the benefit of these Pacific island nations and their people.

House Resolution 505 also recommends that the United States host a Pacific Island Summit as a means of highlighting the myriad of bilateral-multilateral issues of the region. This Member believes that is a very important element of this resolution, and suggests indeed, as my colleague has suggested and I reiterate, that a summit is an excellent proposal. Such a summit probably could be scheduled with little difficulty in concert with the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Community, APEC, perhaps, as the gentleman suggests, and I agree, at the EAST-WEST CENTER in

Hawaii. This Member would urge the administration to consider and act upon such a proposal.

Lastly, I would note that the resolution's author has worked constructively with the majority, with his colleagues in the minority and with the administration to ensure that there are no unnecessary differentials in this resolution. By making this effort, the gentleman has permitted this body to speak with one voice on this important issue.

Therefore, I urge our colleagues to support H. Res. 505, and I thank the gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega) for his initiative.

Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, I yield three minutes to the distinguished gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos).

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, let me first identify myself with the comments of the distinguished gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter), the chairman of the subcommittee, and my good friend and colleague from American Samoa.

The purpose of my rising is to commend the gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega), not only for his leadership on this issue, but on a wide range of issues in the jurisdiction of the Committee on International Relations. The gentleman has not restricted his expertise to this most important region. His contributions to the work of our committee have extended across the globe.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment