The United States signed a new agreement with Palau that gives American ships the authorization to unilaterally enforce maritime regulations in the tiny Pacific island nation's exclusive economic zone, the U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday.It is unclear whether this is an extension of the previous Compact of Free Association or whether it is an entirely new agreement.
In the agreement, concluded a week ago, U.S. Coast Guard ships can enforce regulations inside Palau's exclusive economic zone on behalf of the nation without a Palauan officer present … This would appear to give the US the right (and responsibility?) to confront China when it violates Palau territorial waters and economic zones.
The U.S. has countered with diplomatic moves of its own, including opening an embassy in the Solomon Islands.These recent agreements could be good, however, it depends on whether we’re willing to actually take action. Will we forcibly remove Chinese ships that are violating protected waters or will we just stand by and do nothing as we’re doing in the Middle East where we just stand by and watch the Iranians attack and seize merchant ships? Will this be another red line in the sand which, when crossed, we do nothing about? Agreements mean nothing without force and action backing them up. This is an opportunity for us to begin standing up to China with concrete, meaningful actions (unlike the worse-than-useless Freedom of Navigation exercises).
The agreement with Palau is similar to one concluded with the Federated States of Micronesia at the end of 2022, following which the U.S. Coast Guard has conducted boardings for the Pacific nation.
The U.S. also signed a bilateral defense agreement in May with Papua New Guinea, which will allow the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct boardings alongside its local counterparts in Papua New Guinea's exclusive economic zone for the first time later this year.