f_0017768_15219 - A Strategic Vision for the Pacific C...

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Fall 2009 The Ambassadors REVIEW 35 A Strategic Vision for the Pacific C. Steven McGann United States Ambassador to the Republics of Fiji, Nauru, Kiribati, and the Kingdom of Tonga and Tuvalu he United States has a long history of enduring relationships with the Pacific islands dating from the early days of Yankee whalers to our alliances in World War II, until today, when we are seeking ways to implement a comprehensive and renewed engagement in the region. “The United States is a Pacific Power.” This frequent refrain of American officials is usually directed at Asian audiences and intended to convey that the United States’ transpacific relationships are an integral feature of the Asian security and economic land- scape. While completely true, the concept of “Pacific Power” implicit in this observation often does not encompass the numerous Pacific island countries (PICs) scattered across the vast ocean between America and Asia. United States’ interests are deeply embedded throughout the Pacific. We have a strong stake in the economic growth and stability of Pacific island countries. The State of Hawaii, our Pacific territories, and our unique relationship with the Freely Associated States make the United States an integral part of the Pacific. The region is changing, however, and our engagement must change, too, if we are to preserve our place in it. The Pacific’s shifting dynamic is characterized by substantial development in Guam resulting from the relocation of US forces from Okinawa, major investment in resource rich Papua New Guinea, untapped undersea riches, and profound environmental challenges. Increased labor mobility throughout the region, primarily to Australia and New Zealand but also to the United States, provides substantial remittances that underpin the region’s economy. Pacific island countries, however, still remain extremely vulnerable. Our priorities in the Pacific should be to support and protect democracy and human rights, encourage economic growth and development, foster regional stability, elicit support for US security interests outside the region, and build capacity for environmental protection and resource management. We must also continue to promote US economic interests, such as American investments in the mineral resources, consumer products, tourism and food processing sectors; maintenance of access to Pacific waters by US fishing vessels; and the pursuit of expanded routes for US air carriers. As US Ambassador in Suva, I am responsible for maintaining diplomatic relations and consular functions with five countries, as well as New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, which together encompass 7.57 million square miles and reflect the diversity of challenges and opportunities found throughout Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia. These countries (Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu) occupy a strategically important place in the Pacific. They are our partners in addressing critical global and regional issues, and it is in the United States’ interest to remain fully engaged T
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