"Operation Big Eye" Keys On North Pacific Security

KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon/PINA): March 13, 2003 - Maritime officers from countries in the Micronesian region have gathered in Palau to attend a one-week planning meeting for Operation Big Eye III.

This is an upcoming maritime surveillance activity involving the three countries which have Compacts of Free Association with the United States.

Justice Minister Michael J. Rosenthal welcomed the participants from Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

"Today, globalization has reached every corner of the earth, including the islands of the freely associated states," Rosenthal said. "This has resulted in significant economic benefits to the nations, including the many thousands of tourists, which visit from throughout the world.

"However, globalization has resulted in additional burdens in policing the oceans for illegal fishing, securing the nations' borders from illegal entry, and transnational crime."

He said with the growing concerns of policing the oceans, the Australian government has established the Pacific island patrol boat program.

"The three freely associated states greatly benefit from this program, which has enhanced their ability to patrol the nations' exclusive economic zones for illegal fishing and also provides a resource to address transnational crime occurring in this region of the Pacific."

On Feb. 7, 2002, the three Freely Associated States nations entered into the historic subsidiary agreement to the Niue Treaty. After the agreement became effective, the participants immediately began to plan the tri-nation exercise known as Operation Island Chief, which commenced in Aug. 2002. During the operation, the countries, working together at sea, improved the skills of the marine law enforcement officers and the interpretability between the nations' programs.

The Federated States of Micronesia subsequently conducted Operations Big Eye I and II.

Rosenthal said Operation Big Eye III would again provide an opportunity for the three freely associated states to work together later this year. He said each country will operate in their own waters and receive aerial support from the U.S. Coast Guard.