The Contemporary Pacific 16.1 (2004) 137-145
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Donald R Shuster
Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam
Reflecting their close ties with the United States, citizens of the Republic of Palau held a public ceremony to pay tribute to the seven astronauts lost when space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on its homeward journey. In response to the Iraq war, the republic joined President Bush's Coalition of the Willing, with President Remengesau's offering Palau's existing facilities as additional staging areas for military operations.
In other international affairs, Mr Remengesau hosted the second Micronesian Presidents' Summit in late July. Joined by President Leo Falcam of the Federated States of Micronesia and President Kessai Note of the Marshall Islands, the chief executives of the freely associated states discussed a host of issues and released a joint communiqué at the end of their talks. The statement called for the continuation of open immigration to the United States and requested technical assistance from the United States in the area of security and anti-terrorism measures.
A few weeks later, Remengesau led a delegation to theThirty-thirdPacific Island Forum meeting in Fiji. He presented two major proposals. The first called on the assembled nations to ease travel entry requirements for each other's citizens. The second initiative called for greater support and progress in adopting renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro, wind, and ocean thermal energy conversion. Remengesau stated that his islands' total dependence on foreign sources for fossil fuels diverted funds from much needed development projects.
President Remengesau took on an activist role at the World Summit on Sustainable Development that met in South Africa in August and September 2002. In a forum of 140 nations, he pushed his environmental agenda by calling for greater support for expansion of renewable energy methodologies and expanded financing for sustainable development programs. He also persuaded the Association of Small Island States, a subgroup in the [End Page 137] summit, to include in its communiqué key planks regarding the need for diversification in tourism and transportation sectors as primary elements in sustainable development. At the summit, both the European Union and Japan made commitments of funding for renewable energy initiatives and capacity building for sustainable development. Remengesau left South Africa pleased that the summit's "Plan of Implementation" contained a chapter on the sustainable development issues of the Small Island Developing States. This chapter focused attention on the serious problem of island vulnerability to global climate change and sea-level rise.
In March 2003, Remengesau met with three other chief executives of western Micronesia: Felix Camacho, governor of Guam; Robert Ruecho, governor of Yap State; and Juan Babauta, governor of the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands. Meeting at Palau's magnificent Dolphins Pacific Park, the men agreed to cooperate by having state groups examine and report on nine key issues, including regional tourism, a regional airline, health care, solid waste management, fossil fuel costs, expanded shipping capacity, renewable energy, telecommunications, and improved schools.
President Remengesau headed a delegation of Palauan leaders to the Japan-South Pacific Summit in May. After the formalities, the delegation visited several areas in Okinawa and explored the possibilities of using Japanese expertise for black-pearl farming and the eradication of insect pests in Palau. Soon after this visit, Remengesau signed an agreement with Katsunuma City, Japan, for the aging of the city's popular wines in Palau's pristine lagoon waters. With preorders of some 15,000 bottles, this could be the world's cleanest source of foreign exchange.
The Swiss and New Zealand ambassadors presented their credentials early in the New Year. Also, Remengesau appointed and the Senate approved Santos Olikong and Anita Suta as Palau's ambassadors to Japan and the Republic of the Philippines respectively. Palau now has accredited ambassadors to the United Nations, the United States, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Japan, and the Philippines.
Remengesau was also busy signing agreements and memberships, including a telecommunications agreement with Guam and Yap to connect the three jurisdictions by means of a fiber-optic cable estimated to cost $60 million. He signed the UN...