Pacific leaders sound alarm over delayed U.S. funding

Pacific island leaders express urgent concern over delays in U.S. funding, warning of potential Chinese influence amidst geopolitical tensions.

Leaders from Pacific island nations are expressing growing concern over delays in U.S. funding, warning that such delays could play into the hands of China, which is actively seeking to expand its influence in the region. The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Marshall Islands (RMI), and Palau, under the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) agreements, receive economic assistance from the U.S. in exchange for military access to strategic Pacific territories.

Despite bipartisan support for the renewal of these agreements, which involve a relatively modest additional funding of $2.3 billion, Congress has yet to approve the necessary funds. Republican Senator James Risch led a bipartisan effort to include COFA funding in a $95 billion aid package, emphasizing the urgency of supporting these Pacific nations amidst geopolitical tensions.


Leaders from the COFA countries have underscored the critical importance of timely approval, expressing concerns over the uncertainty generated among their populations and the potential for economic exploitation by other political actors in the region. Palau’s President, Surangel Whipps, highlighted the strategic significance of the agreements, noting the substantial control they afford the U.S. over vital sea and air routes in the Pacific.

Of particular concern is the impact of delays on Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, as China continues its efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally. With Beijing’s aggressive tactics, including economic inducements and diplomatic pressure, several nations have already shifted allegiance from Taiwan to China. The loss of such allies not only undermines Taiwan’s sovereignty but also strengthens China’s regional influence.

The COFA funds are vital for the economic stability of countries like the Marshall Islands and Palau, accounting for a significant portion of their annual government revenue. Failure to approve these funds not only jeopardizes their economic wellbeing but also creates opportunities for China to expand its economic and strategic foothold in the Pacific.

While efforts are underway to secure alternative means of funding, including inclusion in emergency spending bills, there is no guarantee of success. The Biden administration has reiterated the urgency of passing the COFA-related legislation, emphasizing the strategic imperative of maintaining U.S. engagement in the Pacific.

In conclusion, swift action by Congress is crucial to uphold U.S. commitments to its Pacific allies and counter Chinese influence in the region. Failure to do so risks ceding strategic ground to Beijing and undermining regional stability.