The Pacific archipelago state of Palau has extended an invitation to the United States (US) to build military bases on its territory as a counter to China.
This follows a recent visit by US defense secretary Mark Esper. He charged that China was a ‘malign influence’ in the region. The country’s president, Tommy Remengesau Jr, said he had told Esper that the US could construct bases in his country.
A letter from the Palauan president, which was apparently hand delivered to Esper, said: ‘Palau’s request to the US military remains simple – build joint-use facilities, then come and use them regularly.’
Palau maintains no military of its own, but its defence is guaranteed under a compact of free association signed with the US in 1944. Palau’s strategic location to the east of the Philippines could make it a valuable asset in a confrontation between the US and China.
The letter went on to say that ‘the US military’s right to establish defence sites in the Republic of Palau has been under-utilised for the entire duration of the compact’.
Although Palau has sought to attract Chinese tourists and investment, it has resisted Chinese political pressure. It is one of the few countries that maintains diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
The Palauan government hopes that the construction of US bases will not only contribute to its security, but will bring an infusion of economic benefits.
[Picture: LuxTonnerre, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24491968]