Senator John McCain Assures Palau Of Support For Renewed Compact

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Vacationing lawmaker says U.S. commitment to relationship is strong

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Jan. 3, 2014) – Vacationing Arizona Sen. John McCain yesterday addressed the leaders of Palau in a joint session by the Olbiil Era Kelulau at the Senate chamber and expressed his support for the approval of the renewed Palau-US Compact.

McCain said that the long delay with the US funding for the renewal of Compact is not only deeply frustrating to Palauans but also to Palau’s friends in the United States.

"I do not want any of you, or anyone in Palau, to see this delay as a reason to question America’s commitment to Palau. Nothing could be further from the truth. We cannot, and we will not, allow the political spats of Washington to cause us to let you down. Your friends in Washington will continue fighting to move forward and implement the renewed Compact. And we will get it done," McCain said, repeating the phrase "we will get it done."

The Republican senator believes that securing the funding to implement the renewed Palau-US agreement would be a better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Compact next year as well as Palau’s independence. Next year also marks a historic milestone for Palau and the US as it will be the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu – the ferocious and agonizing crucible that first brought Americans in large numbers to Palau, according to McCain.

McCain expressed appreciation to Palau for its enduring support for the US – for always going with US when votes are cast in the United Nations, for the growing economic relationship between Palau and US, for the access Palau has provided to America’s men and women in uniform and the countless ties between both countries’ peoples that make Palau and US something more like a family.

"Palau may be a small nation, but it plays an outsized role in America’s foreign policy. And for that, my country is profoundly grateful," McCain said.

In his address during the joint session, McCain also talked about America’s enduring commitment to the Asia-Pacific region.

McCain said that America’s partnership with Palau is more important today in light of Obama Administration’s talk of a need to pivot or rebalance the US more toward the Asia-Pacific region. But McCain said he does not want to term pivot as US has never left.

"America has long been a Pacific power, and we will always remain one," the Arizona senator said.

McCain said America’s commitment to maintaining a favorable balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region is strong and enduring.

"Now, I realize that many people in this region are questioning the US commitment to the region and out staying power. And I understand why. America today has its share of challenges – from an unsustainable fiscal situation and weak economic growth, to the negative impact of sequestration on our military, to political gridlock that makes all of our hard problems harder to solve. But here, too, there is good news, for all of the things that we in Washington can find to differ over, our commitment to the Asia-Pacific region is not one of them," McCain said.

McCain said that there a lot of things in Washington that they cannot seem to agree on but there is broad bipartisan agreement behind the idea of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific.

McCain said Palau and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region can have confidence in America and its ability to sustain its historic role as a Pacific power.

"You have good reason to count on us, just as we have good reason to count on you. And together, we can move into the new year prepared to do more than just honor and remember the successes of our shared history, but also to build on those successes and to foster greater security and development on behalf of both of our peoples," McCain said.

The joint session yesterday was followed by a dinner reception for McCain and his family at the OEK building.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. and First Lady, Vice President Antonio Bells, Paramount Chiefs Ibedul and Reklai, Chief Justice Arthur Ngiraklsong, Senate and House members, Cabinet members and other local officials also attended the joint session. Information from the Senate disclosed that Senators Regis Akitaya, Mark Rudimch, Kathy Kesolei, Joel Toribiong and Mlib Tmetuchl were not present while information from the House disclosed that those who were not present from the lower chamber were Delegates Gibson Kanai, Frank Kyota and Vice Speaker Alexander Merep.

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