Government of the Federated States of Micronesia



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 the people."

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 status decisions.

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 self-government.

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 prerogatives.

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 might have.