28 June 2017

News Story: ‘Indispensable’ Palau Deal At Risk - Will China Get Access

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“Palau is indispensable to our national security and funding the compact is key to our strategic presence in the region.”

That’s what the Defense Department’s 2018 budget request says.

Why is Palau indispensable? Look at the map. That will help. It commands approaches to the Philippines and to Indonesia, as well as Papua New Guinea. And, of course, they flank the Marshall Islands, as well as a wide range of Pacific islands flanking our ally Australia. Also, one source notes that the importance of Palau airfields have taken on “increased importance for PACOM/PACAF given Duterte and his rhetoric in the Philippines.” It provides “a more guaranteed form of access to airfields in the second island chain,” this source says.

And you can read what the head of Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 27:

I strongly urge Congress to pass legislation to approve and implement the 2010 Palau Compact Review Agreement at the earliest opportunity. The passage of this legislation will have a significant impact on our defense relationship with Palau, and will provide a measurable advantage in our strategic posture in the Western Pacific.

The problem is that the House Armed Services Committee doesn’t seem to think Palau is important to warrant taking money from the Defense Department budget and sending it to the Interior Department, which is what the budget request would do. So, they’ve peeled the money out of their version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, according to two sources familiar with the issue.

Read the full story at Breaking Defense