WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Uifa’atali Amata (R-A. Samoa) has applauded the visit to the Pacific of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his first foray into the region since taking office in 2021.
“Welcome to my home district of American Samoa, strategically important as the only U.S. soil in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Amata in a letter that was hand-delivered to the Secretary, made possible courtesy of the Governor’s office, during his stop in Pago Pago, where COVID-19 restrictions precluded the nation’s top diplomat from making a longer stay.
As the pandemic winds down to a close, the Blinken mission is seen as an effort by the Biden administration to ramp up its moves to pivot to the Asia-Pacific in the aftermath of the end of American involvement in Afghanistan.
“I am glad the secretary at least got the opportunity to see for himself that when it comes to this part of the world, where the Chinese Communist Party is increasing its visibility dramatically,” she asserted, “American Samoa may be remote but is central to our national security.”
Noting that Blinken also intended to focus on reviewing negotiations to extend financial provisions of the Compact of Free Association with three Micronesian freely associated states, Amata urged swift completion of the talks so the pacts can be submitted to Congress for implementing legislation.
“I know other members of the Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus and I are encouraged that the leaders of the three Freely Associated States are anxious to renew their long-term partnership with the United States, which we fully support,” she said. “Last November, the Caucus hosted a bipartisan briefing by the President of Palau organized by my good friend and Chairman of the Caucus, Congressman Ed Case of Hawaii.
“Please know that we applaud your important visit to the region and urge swift completion of the negotiations to renew the Compacts as quickly as possible so they can be taken up by Congress,” she continued. “I am sure the other members of our Pacific Caucus would join me in asking you for a briefing on your observations and discussions upon your return from the region so we can be prepared to receive your legislative proposal for Compact extension.
“Pago Pago is just the first stop on a trip that will be long and tiring but I hope productive,” she concluded. “You have our best wishes for a successful outcome.” (PR)