Barrasso: The Freely Associated States in the Indo-Pacific Region Play a Vital Role in Our Deterrence of China

March 29, 2022

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing to examine the strategic importance of the Freely Associated States to the United States and our allies in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Compacts of Free Association with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. 

The hearing featured testimony from Mr. Mark Lambert, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State; Dr. Siddharth Mohandas, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for East Asia at the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the U.S. Department of State; and Mr. Keone Nakoa, deputy assistant secretary of Insular and International Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.  

For more information on witness testimony click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Thanks so much Mr. Chairman, and thanks for holding this important hearing. 

“And thanks to all the witnesses who are joining us today. 

“Today is a great opportunity to discuss the strategic importance of our Freely Associated States in the Indo-Pacific region. 

“They play a vital role in our deterrence of an ever more aggressive China. 

“The war in the Ukraine has raised the alarm to the world. 

“We are seeing a shifting of the global world order as we know it. 

“A belligerent and hostile Russia has reminded Europe that the world is not a peaceful place. 

“Security, peace and stability can no longer be taken for granted there. 

“At the same time, aggressive countries like China, with larger global ambitions, are watching. 

“They are working to upset the security and power dynamic in the region and to threaten Taiwan. 

“We cannot take their actions lightly. 

“We should do all we can to deter them from taking the same course as Russia.

“The Compacts of Free Association we have with the Freely Associated States of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau, are a key part in that deterrence. 

“These island nations and our U.S. territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa, form an important line of support and defense for the U.S. and our allies in the Pacific. 

“The military assets and personnel we currently have stationed on these islands help provide stability. 

“So will our future plans for additional facilities and assets. 

“The Compacts of Free Association facilitate these strong bonds. 

“They are critical to continuing our historically strong relationships with these nations. 

“The administration has stated they understand the priority of the Compacts in their recently released ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States.’ 

“In its Indo-Pacific Strategy the administration stated, ‘We will also prioritize negotiations on our Compacts of Free Association with the Freely Associated States as the bedrock of the U.S. role in the Pacific.’ 

“However, as Chairman Manchin and I noted in a recent letter to the administration, ‘To date, despite these statements by the Administration, there has been no formal Compact negotiation meeting between any of the FAS and the Administration since 2020’ – meaning none with the Biden administration. 

“Actions speak louder than words as the chairman has said. 

“China is on the move. 

“Time is running out on renewing the expiring provisions of these Compacts. 

“The agencies before us today, the Departments of Interior and State, as well as the Department of Defense, need to work together to get these negotiations back on track. 

“Now is not the time to send a signal to our adversaries that the U.S does not consider the Freely Associated States a strategic priority. 

“We cannot allow China to forge stronger ties with these nations at our expense, and at the expense of our allies. 

“The people of the Freely Associated States have stood by us as steadfast allies. 

“They expect in return that their priorities are heard. 

“With the three agencies before us today, it is my hope that we can get a better sense of what is being done to deter China and what the barriers are to moving forward with these Compact negotiations. 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, I look forward to the testimony.”