His Excellency Francis Itimai, Former Minister of Transport and Communications of the Federated States of Micronesia and a sworn friend.
When the Japan-led Micronesian Maritime Security Project was established, Australia was a major opponent. This may explain why the five Micronesian nations will withdraw from the Pacific Islands Forum this year, in 2021, which was heavily influenced by Australia.
As a result of my doplomatic negotoiation efforts, the Micronesian Presidents' Summit in November 2008 reached an agreement to request Japan's support for maritime security in the region. About a year later, after further coordination with the United States and Australia, the first meeting between the three Micronesian nations and Japan, Australia, and the United States was held in Tokyo on March 2, 2010.
Yohei Sasakawa had done nothing and knew nothing. I had brought this project this far on my own, and I was tired with mainly internal politics. The reason why Jiro Hanyu, the chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation at the time, called for my participation was to tell me to deal with anything that might happen.
Something did happen. On the morning of the conference, the Australian delegation had arranged a breakfast meeting with delegates from the three Micronesian countries. He told them to maintain the Biketawa Declaration* and to oppose Japan's participation. I was told this by a cabinet minister of one of the participating countries.
*(A resolution adopted at the 31st Pacific Islands Forum held in Kiribati in October 2000, setting out a security framework for the South Pacific region).
The discussion at the meeting was quite contentious, with the U.S. and Australia putting up a stubborn fight, but Francis Itimai, Minister of Transport and Communications of the Federated States of Micronesia and a close ally of mine, who had been elected Chairman, dared to speak out.
"It's the decision of three democratically elected Presidents. How dare you ignore our sovereignty?"
It was actually a calm, powerful, diplomatic statement, but it sounded like this to me. It was really painful and spectacular. It was the climax of a diplomatic drama.
But the U.S. and Australian representatives were insistent that it was not that simple because they had been trying for decades and had not been successful.
There was a reason why the US and Australian foreign ministries were so insistent. Unfortunately, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs told me,
"You're a private entity, why are you doing something unnecessary?"
That was the reaction of the Japanese Foreign Ministry. If I hadn't done something unnecessary at that time, the U.S. and Australia would not have turned their attention to the maritime security of Pacific island countries. This was five to six years before the Chinese threat was clearly recognized.
Even before the "China threat," U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad W. Allen was concerned about maritime security in the Micronesian region and called for a public-private partnership.
On July 20, 2009, he was scheduled to visit the Federated States of Micronesia and needed to be briefed by a cabinet member who also knew him and referred the matter to me. For the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy, who knew what was going on in the Micronesia region, Japan's involvement was welcome. **
Australia's security intervention in the Micronesian region has sometimes undermined trust between the two countries. I have been observing the Royal Australian Navy and its movements for more than a decade. At first I was uncomfortable with the stubbornness of the Royal Australian Navy, but when I learned what was really going on, I began to sympathize. The Pacific island nations, including those in Micronesia, have been unable to keep up with the support for their respective areas, contrary to their perceptions.
Who would have thought in 2010 that not only Japan, the United States, and Australia, but also France, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Canada would be involved in the maritime security of the Indo-Pacific?
President Mori Welcomes US Coast Guard Commandant in Palikir
President Mori Welcomes US Coast Guard Commandant in Palikir
Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): July 24, 2009 - On Monday July 20, 2009, President Mori received a courtesy call from the U.S. Coast Guard's top ranking official, Admiral Thad W. Allen at the Office of the President in Palikir. President Mori greeted the Admiral and highlighted some of the areas of interaction that the FSM has with the U.S. Coast Guard.
President Mori first thanked the Admiral for the U.S. Coast Guard's Search and Rescue missions that are provided to the FSM. The President noted that many FSM citizens have been saved due to this. He then pointed out that the FSM's EEZ is huge and it is extremely difficult to patrol the entire area with FSM's limited resources. He told the Admiral that a sufficient presence of surveillance activities is required to deter illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in FSM's waters, and that FSM's boarders also need to be protected from other transnational crimes, such as drug trafficking/smuggling, human trafficking and other illegal activities.
President Mori spoke of the cooperative arrangements such as the tri-lateral arrangement with the Republic of Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands with the FSM under the Niue Treaty that have been put in place so the Parties can assist each other in surveillance activities and with information sharing and joint exercises to patrol their zones. The President noted that the U.S. Coast Guard has also been assisting in these exercises and in providing aerial surveillance.
The President also focused on the Shiprider Agreement that the FSM has with the US Coast Guard which allows FSM officers to ride on US boats, and told Admiral Allen that this Agreement has "gone a long way in providing another platform from which our authorized officers can board suspected vessels." In fact, he attributed the recent arrest of one or two fishing boats for illegal fishing activities within our EEZ, to the agreement. He also pointed out that the U.S. Coast Guard now has access to our VMS information to assist them to see where vessels are in the FSM EEZ and that the U.S. Navy may also be helping with monitoring vessels when they pass through the FSM on their way to other destinations.
Admiral Allen talked about continuing the partnerships that the U.S. Coast Guard has with the FSM and focused on the challenges that the vast amount of ocean that FSM has in its EEZ presents towards surveillance efforts, but said that these are not unique in the region and with cooperation, they can be overcome. The Admiral told President Mori that there are significant opportunities to move ahead with the Sasakawa Foundation's proposal for a sub-regional Coast Guard, and that he looks forward to progress with this endeavor.
The brief meeting ended with an exchange of gifts, a photo session and a brief press statement that Admiral Allen gave. This statement can be heard on the FSMPIO website by using the following link: http://www.fsmpio.fm/us-coast-guard-press-statement.mwa.