REMARKS OF DEPUTY SECRETARY ASTERIO TAKESY
VIRGIN ISLANDS CONFERENCE
August 25 - 28, 1989
Check Against Delivery
Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Asterio Takesy. I am Deputy
Secretary of External Affairs in the Government of my country,
the Federated States of Micronesia. I am honored to be here,
and hope that what I have to say will be helpful to you in making
your status decision this November.
I want to say in the beginning that my people have long felt
close to you, as fellow islanders who are also connected with
the United States. Even so, we actually hesitated to accept your
kind invitation to come here and discuss our experience with
the status of free association, because we make it a strong policy
to avoid interfering in the internal affairs of others. I ask
you to understand, then, that my only purpose here is to offer
information in a helpful spirit. I am in no way trying to encourage
or discourage your choice of any status you may deem best for
these beautiful islands.
For those who may not be familiar with my country, it is the
Federated States of Micronesia, or, "FSM" for short.
We are a society of just over 100,000 people who have lived for
many centuries on about 100 widely dispersed islands in the Western
Pacific, at roughly the same latitude as the Virgin Islands.
While our climate is much like yours, we are far from any major
developed nations. The closest is Japan, about a thousand miles
to the north of us.
Like your islands, Micronesia has been the object of colonial
interest for the past several centuries. We were first visited
and colonized by Spain in the early days of European Pacific
exploration; then the Germans took control for a relatively brief
period, and finally, after World War I, we were administered
for about thirty years by Japan under a League of Nations mandate.
Then, following World War II, the United States became responsible
for the entire region known as "Micronesia" under a
trusteeship agreement with the United Nations.
In understanding our political status today, it is important
to know that neither Japan nor the United States actually possessed
sovereignty over our islands. The United States made that expressly
clear at the time it assumed its role as Trustee, and accepted
an obligation to promote our development toward "self-government
or independence, according to the freely expressed wishes of
Those wishes eventually led one part of Micronesia to self-
government within the United States family, as the Commonwealth
of the Northern Marianas. The other Micronesian areas, Palau,
the Marshall Islands, and the FSM, chose in 1979 to retain their
sovereignty under three separate constitutional governments.
The FSM Constitution established our country as a democratic
federation of four states, with a national government made up
of three branches - executive, legislative and judicial. We in
the FSM, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, also chose
to retain close ties with the United States, the terms of which
are spelled out in a treaty called the "Compact of Free
Association." The Compact was implemented for the FSM on
November 3, 1986, the same day that the Trusteeship ceased to
be effective over us. Palau has yet to decide finally on any
continuing relationship with the United States, and remains subject
to the Trusteeship.
Under our Compact with the United States, we are receiving
very significant development assistance for a fifteen year period.
Both parties recognized that the stability of the region is linked
to our continued progress toward self-sufficiency. Also under
the Compact, we have delegated to the United States, through
our Constitution, the one basic governmental responsibility which
we cannot shoulder ourselves the defense responsibility, for
fifteen years. After that, if the free association relationship
is terminated, a standby treaty of "friendship, cooperation
and security" between the FSM and the US will come into
force, under which the US will continue to bear certain defense
responsibilities and provide assistance to promote our self-sufficiency,
for an indefinite period.
Except for the delegated defense responsibilities, the FSM
Government exercises all government functions, both internal
and external. We are FSM citizens, and we carry only our country's
passport. The FSM now has diplomatic relations with twelve other
countries and is a member of various international organizations.
Since I know that your Status Commission has given you a good
deal of information about the status of free association from
a political science point of view, I will try to concentrate
on what you are probably most interested in hearing from me-
that is, "How is free association working out for the FSM?"
"What is it like to be in free association with the United
States?" Let me say again, however, that every status situation
is unique, and I do not suggest that my country's experiences
or feelings about relationship with the US should influence your
It is now almost three years since we completed a very long,
complex and difficult process of political development, During
that period, which began roughly in about 1965, Micronesia underwent
a division into four separate political entities, writing of
constitutions, and election and installation of governments.
All of this involved quite a bit of on-the-job training.
During the same period of time, we also had to carry on constant
negotiations with the United States, given early and strong indications
from our people that they wished both to retain their sovereignty
and a close relationship with the United States. The latter of
these was the hard part, not because of any ill will on the part
of the US, but because I think many in the US Government found
it hard to understand the priority we placed on achieving real
In any event, suddenly, on November 3, 1986, after twenty
years of friendly, but adversary negotiations with the United
States, the time came for everyone to put both the Trusteeship
and the Compact negotiations behind them and see whether the
complex of agreements we had negotiated would actually work.
Many of the same US officials with whom we had conducted hard
bargaining now were called on to deliver on the promises and
commitments made. These included State and Defense Department
negotiators, former Trusteeship administrators in the Interior
Department, a wide array of other Executive Department and agency
officials, as well as members and staff of both Houses of the
US Congress. All of them overnight had to see and treat the FSM
in an entirely new light.
On our side as well, most of the FSM negotiators were, and
are, key officials of our Government. The time had come to stop
talking about taking the reins of government, and, once and for
all, to take them. Our effectiveness in doing this would be critical
if we were to demonstrate to our friends - in the US and elsewhere,
the proper relationship between our constitutional self-government
and free association with the United States under the Compact.
So that there is no suspense about the bottom line of this
presentation, let me state now that, on the whole, I am here
to tell a success story. Naturally, I don't want to say anything
to prejudice ongoing discussions with the US, and we do have
some. Nor do I want to imply to my own people that we can relax
our determination to see that their bargain is kept. But rather
than focus on problems, let me review with you some of the reasons
why, today, I believe that most FSM citizens and those in the
US who have followed our development feel that the free association
relationship has passed its first tests.
Despite all the words on paper, the FSM's new relationship
with the United States would not work if the US approached it
in a spirit of narrow interpretation, trying to hold on to the
past. I am happy to say that this has not been the case. Instead,
the attitude of the US officials has been to provide the maximum
assistance, consistent with the Compact, and, this is very important,
subject to the wishes of my Government. What is good for the
FSM is no longer someone else's decision.
We continue to deal on a limited basis with the Interior Department's
Office of Territorial and International Affairs, but only because
the US Government chose to make that office the channel through
which the agreed upon Compact funds and technical assistance
are provided. Thus far they have done an excellent job at timely
and accurate processing of a rather complex system of entitlements.
The bulk of our contacts with the US are now conducted through
the Department of State, where the process of Compact implementation
has been entrusted to a new office, the Office of Freely Associated
States Affairs. For the first few years of the Compact, that
office was staffed by members of the former US negotiating team
on the Compact. They proved to be very effective in assisting
not only the FSM, but also the US bureaucracy in establishing
working procedures with the many different Executive Departments
and agencies who have a role to play under the Compact.
Our official relations with the US are on a diplomatic basis.
We have an embassy in Washington, and the US has an embassy in
Pohnpei, our national capital. Ambassadors are now being posted.
Now that we are self-governing, we see fewer US officials
in the FSM than before, and they are there usually for short
stays, to carry out some phase of US assistance, Under the Compact,
US citizens do have the right to enter and reside in the FSM,
and to work there. FSM citizens enjoy a reciprocal right of entry
and work privileges in the US. Thus far, there has been no large
influx of US citizens wanting to reside in the FSM, but the number
of business visitors is growing. This is encouraged by the FSM,
in line with the Compact's goal of fostering long-term close
FSM/US relations through economic ties.
On the other side of the coin, FSM citizens thus far have
continued to go to the US at about the same rate as during Trusteeship
times, mainly to attend educational institutions and then return
to the FSM. Almost all of our students do return. The ability
to work while going to school enables many of our students to
complete their education who could not otherwise do so.
Since our citizens carry FSM passports, and no longer Trust
Territory passports, the US immigration officials have developed
a special I-94 Form which we present at US ports of entry. It
refers to the Compact and permits unlimited entry into the US.
Our status if living in the US is that of resident aliens. We
are permitted to serve in the US Armed Forces, but cannot become
commissioned officers without acquiring US citizenship through
regular naturalization procedures.
As I mentioned earlier, the FSM is receiving substantial US
grants and other assistance from the US over a fifteen-year period,
starting at about what we were receiving under the Trusteeship,
and scaled down at five-year intervals. Toward the end of the
fifteen-year period, negotiations will take place regarding possible
continued assistance, but there are no guarantees.
The US aid is packaged with a definite purpose in mind - to
stimulate the growth of an economy which someday can be self-
sustaining. This will not be easy, and in fact it may not be
possible in a literal sense. We have few natural resources other
than fish, which, while significant, is not enough by itself
to support us. Our tourism is growing slowly, but due to our
remoteness, it will never be the major economic factor that it
is to the Virgin Islands.
We hope to be able to develop an export base with a variety
of light industrial products. In that area, the Compact is designed
to encourage the participation and assistance of US business
interests. Of course, we will work to make that productive, but
our private sector is still in its infancy. Its development is
held back by a lack of experience and because much of our basic
infrastructure - roads, transportation, power and water - still
needs to be completed. This, too, is one of the dedicated purposes
of a large proportion of our Compact assistance.
When you start from a position of being very undeveloped,
lacking a real functioning economy and, like much of the Pacific
Basin, very dependent on outside assistance, it is difficult
to identify in advance any amount of aid that can be said to
be enough. Essential government services must be sustained, and
at the same time, an economic base must be established and encouraged
to grow. If this is to work it must be carefully planned and
executed in a way that is suitable to our people and their culture
- not just taking any and all available handouts with their accompanying
strings. Due to all the uncertainties, we naturally had misgivings
at the prospect of declining an integral relationship with the
US and agreeing in advance to levels of assistance that would
be provided to us as equal partners, rather than under our old
and comfortable relationship as dependents and wards. We put
a good deal of effort into detailed five-year development plans,
at the national and state levels, which are constantly updated
and will be followed by successive plans. In this process we
are assisted not only by the US, but by a number of UN and other
international development agencies.
There is, of course, no guarantee that we will ever actually
reach the goal of self- sufficiency. It is often observed today
that the world is increasingly interdependent, and that even
the concept of "independence," is increasingly irrelevant
in economic, if not in legal significance.
What, then, did the FSM people want in seeking to terminate
their trusteeship status, while keeping a US relationship in
the form of something called, "free association" It
was not that we felt we could increase the level of US assistance.
Quite the opposite, we were willing to risk a less secure day-to-day
support structure than we had under the Trusteeship, or might
have under some form of integration into the so-called US "family,"
in order to work toward self reliance. Even if we could not reach
true self-sufficiency, our people, whose lives have been so radically,
and often adversely affected by the decisions of colonial powers,
wanted for the first time in their history a sense of self-reliance.
This could not be had by resubmitting to external sovereignty
in exchange for continued aid determined by others, and the privilege
of only internal self-government,
To our people, the door to eventual self-reliance could be
kept open only if we maintained our sovereignty and established
a capacity for real self-government. That capacity had to include
the ability to make our own decisions about the domestic advancement
of our people with relation to the outside world. In other words,
we had to have control over external, as well as domestic affairs.
Fortunately, after some early years of great reluctance to
understand our needs, the United States Administration finally
came to understand the FSM's determination. They also realized
that their own interests in the stability of the region would
be better served by encouraging, rather than discouraging, the
tide of self-determination in Micronesia.
Thus, following adoption of the FSM Constitution, the US moved
quickly to transfer governmental powers consistent with the Trusteeship,
which we and they agreed should continue during a period of orderly
transition and finalization of the post- Trusteeship arrangements
under the Compact.
That process was finally completed on November 3, 1986, when
both the FSM and US Presidents proclaimed the end of the Trusteeship's
application to the FSM. Concurrently, the Compact of Free Association,
which had been ratified under the FSM Constitution as a treaty,
was implemented by mutual agreement.
Since that time, the United States and almost all of our Pacific
neighbors have been very supportive as we assumed responsibility
for our own affairs. Some countries, however, have pointed to
their perceptions of vague, internal UN procedures for termination
of a trusteeship, and on that basis have questioned the FSM's
self-determination - for reasons that may be essentially political.
They choose to ignore the fact that the process that brought
our country into existence did not involve any grant of sovereignty
or governmental power from the United States. Instead, whatever
governmental authority the US now exercises on behalf of the
FSM is under the Compact, and has been delegated to the United
States pursuant to the FSM Constitution.
This reality has enabled the FSM to establish within only
three years, quite an active array of relationships with other
States in the international community, as well as international
organizations. At this time we conduct diplomatic relations with
12 countries. On September 11, 1989, we and the Peoples Republic
of China will commence full diplomatic relations. We have embassies
not only in the United States but also in Fiji, and in Japan.
Australia and the Philippines have requested to establish embassies,
in Pohnpei, and others, such as Japan, Israel and New Zealand,
have accredited non-resident diplomats to our President.
We are not, however, attempting to run up a score. Our diplomatic
program must be conservative, in order to make the most effective
use of our limited finances. As one might expect, our emphasis
has been on relations with our Pacific neighbors.
In a similar vein, we have been welcomed by a number of regional
international bodies, and also by a United Nations specialized
agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization. We expect
that very soon our pending application for full membership in
the Asian Development Bank will be approved. Again, our approach
to international organizations is a very measured one, seeking
memberships only where we can meet our responsibilities as well
as benefit from the association.
To return to the relationship of free association with the
United States, the only governmental power delegated by the FSM
to the United States is the responsibility for security and defense.
That is of necessity a broad area of authority, given our region's
history and continuing strategic position. We do not wish to
be overrun again, but obviously, we alone could do nothing to
prevent it. Since we and the US share the same ideals of freedom
and democracy, it is natural that we turned to the United States
to protect us in matters of defense and international security.
Some have criticized us for committing to such close cooperation
with the US in defense matters that we even undertook to conform
our governmental actions to defense considerations as ultimately
judged by the US. Such criticism is undoubtedly well- meaning,
but regrettably, uninformed. We have, from the beginning of our
status discussions with the US years ago, felt a close community
of interests with the US on defense matters and our people decided
upon a delegation of the defense power with complete confidence.
Military bases are not foreseen to be a consideration since there
are none in the FSM and none are planned. In any case, the Compact
preserves our ultimate prerogative on any suggestion of land
acquisition for defense purposes.
Thus far, three years into the Compact, we have had occasion
to stay in close touch with the US representatives on military
matters affecting the region, but there has been no disagreement,
The US has not attempted to alter or even influence FSM Government
policy or actions on asserted defense grounds, or, for that matter,
on any other grounds. In the unlikely event that some dispute
should arise that could not be resolved through discussions,
the FSM Government would simply have to weigh the significance
of the matter against any offsetting considerations, and ultimately
act according to its constitutional responsibilities and sovereign
The important thing to remember, however, is that the decision
to delegate the defense power, and the terms of that delegation,
was freely made by the FSM in accordance with its constitutional
processes. Thus, criticisms of that delegation may be a lively
topic for scholars or political observers, but have little, if
any legal significance.
In these remarks I have purposely kept a very positive tone
about the FSM's experience since emerging from the Trusteeship,
because I feel that is where the emphasis should lie. But what
about the negative side? What problems have we encountered? In
all honesty, I would have difficulty in pointing to anything
that amounts to a defect or a disappointment with the Compact
of Free Association. We may make different judgments as time
goes on, but in the first three years we can critique little
beyond the implementation process, which has gone well mechanically,
and the spirit which the US has brought to the relationship,
which has met our expectations.
Some have been a little disappointed that economic development
has been slow to get underway. We must remember, however, that
we assumed that responsibility ourselves, and that it is up to
the FSM to take decisions necessary to create the environment
for development. We are simply finding that such things cannot
be done overnight, no matter how much assistance is available.
Three years is a relatively short period on a development timetable.
Finally, I might refer to the fact that many of our oldest
friends in the US Government remain quite prepared to assist
us in ways that are very valuable, and even needed, but which
could raise some question of consistency with our assumption
of self- government. I am referring to certain program and project
assistance, especially in the health and education areas. Thus
far, this has not only helped - it has been crucial in smoothing
transitional problems that may not have been adequately provided
for in the Compact itself. The problem involved is a problem
for ourselves, to guard against a tendency to fall back to a
dependency on such assistance, and to discipline ourselves to
continue on the course toward greater self-reliance.
I am sure that my allotted time has expired, and besides,
my main purpose in being here is to address your interests. Thus,
let me simply thank you again for inviting me to come here, and
say that I would be happy to try to answer any questions you