US Ambassador to FSM says no new Compact is on the table for any nation

Secessionists say that the message is US intervention in sovereign affairs

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

July 19, 2018

FSM—Last week United States Ambassador Robert Riley to the FSM began a media campaign to inform Chuukese citizens about the facts regarding the possibility of a Compact of Free Association with a nation of Chuuk, should the voters decide to secede in their election eight months from now.  As United States Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Ambassador Riley’s words are fully representative of the government of the United States.

In his interview with The Kaselehlie Press, his video message released on YouTube, his radio recordings, and in public forums, the Ambassador gave the very clear message that there have only ever been three Compacts of Free Association with the United States in the world in all of history.  There will never be another, even for a new country of Chuuk if that comes to exist.

He made it clear that the United States government would never interfere with the right of self-determination for the people of Chuuk.  The people of Chuuk have a right to decide.  They also have a right to be fully informed before they make their decision at the polls in March 2019.

Of course, the relationship with the United States with a potential new nation of Chuuk is only one part of the information that voters need to know about as they consider secession but that is the only part that Ambassador Riley could authoritatively address.

Upon release of the Ambassador’s YouTube video, proponents for Chuuk’s secession from the Federated States of Micronesia quickly made it clear that they considered the message to be US interference in sovereign affairs. (see Op Ed by Chuuk Attorney General in this issue.)

As US Ambassador to the FSM, it is his job to share information on US policies with the FSM.

“I am not here to tell them how to vote, only to give them the facts so that they can accurately weigh the pros and cons,” Riley wrote after his two public forum meetings in Weno, Chuuk. 

The public forum at Chuuk High School attracted approximately 400 people.  Outside were signs that read, “US Ambassador Riley please help Chuuk be itself”.  Another said, “Mr. Ambassador Welcome to Chuuk Republic  Chuuk Needs Independence not us (sic) interference”.

Ambassador Riley presented the facts from the US policy side and then invited speakers to come and ask questions afterward.  Some speakers from the Chuuk Political Status Commission called into question the timing of the Ambassador’s message and accused the US of “interference”. Others challenged Chuukese citizens to consider carefully the ramifications of the information the Ambassador had presented.

Ambassador Riley also held a forum today with approximately 70 members of the Chuuk Women’s Council.

Ambassador Riley is not the first US Ambassador to deliver the message that the Compact is an agreement between the US and the Federated States of Micronesia that doesn’t directly name the states.  Former Ambassador Doria Rosen confirmed today that she had delivered the same message while she was the representative of the US in the FSM.  She told the people of Chuuk during an address in Chuuk that if they voted to leave the FSM they would be taking themselves out of that agreement and that if they did so, the likelihood of a new Compact for a new nation would be low.

She was not accused of interfering in sovereign affairs.

The same message that Ambassador Riley presented this week has been reiterated many times by US Embassy staff members who did not have positions as US Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, but who had high positions with close official knowledge of US policies.

Still, members of the Chuuk Political Status Commission have continued to intimate that Chuuk would be able to negotiate a new Compact of Free Association with the United States if Chuuk voters decide to make Chuuk an independent nation.

“The United States hopes that Chuuk will succeed,” Riley said in his video message.

He said that the US values its strong relationship with the FSM and with Chuuk and hopes that it will continue long into the future. 

If the people of Chuuk decide to stand on their own, that is their choice, but their separation from the FSM will mean separation from the Compact agreements which are with the Federated States of Micronesia and not an entity called “Chuuk”.

The Ambassador made it clear in his various speeches and interviews that implemented secession would mean that Chuuk would forfeit all benefit of previous US contributions to the Compact Trust Fund that will replace sector grants in the FSM in 2023 when US financial sector grant contributions will end.  They would receive no further sector grants that currently pay in large part for Education and Health sectors.  The same would be true for infrastructure development funds.  Immigration agreements under the Compact that allow for FSM citizens to freely travel, reside, own property, and work in the US would no longer be valid for an independent nation of Chuuk.  Chuukese citizens currently living in the US under the agreement would be in “legal limbo” as the Ambassador described it.  Those residents could ultimately be deported.  Travelers from Chuuk to and through the US would require a visa and Chuuk would need to establish its own passport for its citizens.  Often used services like US Coast Guard search and rescue in Chuuk waters would no longer be available. The unique arrangement the US has with the FSM to militarily defend the FSM and its waters would no longer apply.  Projects like the one the Seabees are currently undertaking to renovate Chuuk High School would no longer happen.  Disaster relief services would also be very different for an independent nation of Chuuk.

“This is a very, very unique arrangement that we have with Micronesia that grew out of a specific situation—World War II, and after World War II”, said Ambassador Riley during our interview last week. “And it’s not just Chuuk, it’s anywhere in the world.  The Compact of Free Association will not be repeated anywhere. It didn’t exist before and it didn’t exist after.  It was a unique response to a unique situation.”