Money to Counter China in the Pacific Is Included in a Bill to Fund the US Government

On Sunday, congressional negotiators in the United States unveiled a plan that would finance the government’s essential operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, which started in October 2023. Important monies to oppose China in the Pacific are included in the appropriations package as part of the Compacts of Free Association, or COFA, a deal reached last year. Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands will get $7 billion in economic assistance over a 20-year period as a result of the compacts. Washington will defend them in return and has the authority to bar China from entering their territorial waters, which span a greater marine region than the mainland United States.

 

Similar agreements have been in place between the US and Palau since 1994 as well as between Micronesia and the Marshall Islands since 1986. As nonimmigrants, citizens of these countries are permitted to visit, reside, and work in the US. Representative for American Samoa, Congresswoman Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, told VOA on Sunday that she received the news early on Saturday morning from House Speaker Mike Johnson. The presidents of the three Pacific allies were then contacted, according to Radewagen, with the information. “The COFA agreements take a much-needed international strong stand for the ideals of democracy and freedom and send a clear message of U.S. commitment to the Pacific region,” she said to VOA via email.

 

The agreement’s full funding has long been backed by Hawaii Democrat Senator Mazie Hirono, who made a statement on Sunday night. “These agreements are extremely important for our national security and that of our allies, as well as for the tens of thousands of COFA citizens who live, work, and pay taxes in the U.S.,” she said, adding that they are also crucial for countering China’s growing influence in the Pacific. The action was taken in response to a request from 26 senators, including Republican John Barrasso and Democrat Joe Manchin, for the Senate leadership to add the language that had been removed from a security budget package on February 12.

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