After years of delay, the Compact agreement between Palau and the United States has finally been renewed, but approval of the funds promised in the agreement is still pending.
The Palau Compact was among the many provisions included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that President Donald Trump signed into law Wednesday in Washington.
The Compact has been awaiting congressional approval since 2010 when it was signed by Palau and the U.S. government. However, congressional infighting over budget issues has delayed action for the past seven years.
Regional leaders have expressed concern over the delay, pointing out Palau's strategic location at a time when China has become increasingly assertive in the region, along with escalating threats from North Korea.
Authorizing the Compact is only the first step. Congress now must approve a budget to fund its implementation.
"Finalization of this agreement with Palau is long overdue," said Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Doug Domenech, of the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Insular Affairs. "We look forward to final action from Congress to provide the appropriations necessary to finalize this important U.S. government commitment to Palau."
$229M in funding through 2024
The Compact agreement promises a total of $229 million in funding for Palau through 2024, and President Trump has called on Congress to make $124 million of that total available to Palau in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2018.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke underscored the need to approve the funding, saying, "it's an important element of the Pacific national security strategy to maintain stability in the Western Pacific Region."