Koror- No word from Palau officials about U.S. Secretary of Defense's visit here this week
The United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will be visiting Palau this week according to an August 19 press release from the US Defense Department.
While the news of the visit has been reported widely outside of Palau, officials here including the Office of the President have not made the information known to the community despite several inquiries.
According to an August 19 press release from the US Defense Department, Esper will “conduct meetings with military leaders, local officials and foreign partners; visit with our forces deployed through the region; and participate in commemorative events marking the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II.”
“During this trip he will reinforce the United States’ vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific comprised of nations that adhere to the international rules-based order that was established 75 years ago in the wake of the allied victory in World War II,” the press release further said.
Although no official date has been released, a news report from Guam said that Mr. Esper is scheduled to meet with his Japanese counterpart on Guam on Aug. 29.
Palau is likely the second leg after Hawaii, with Guam as the last stop. Unconfirmed reports from Palau says that Secretary Esper is likely to arrive in Palau a day earlier on Friday, August 28.
Secretary Esper’s visit comes at a time when Palau and the United States has initiated an early second Compact Review strictly on the terms of economic provisions, which are set to expire in 2024.
Palau is a rare destination for the defense secretary but his visit could be seen as part of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy - a commitment to the Asia-Pacific region as a priority area.
Esper’s visit provides a highest-level opportunity for Palau to state its case for financial assistance to float its economy battered by the threats of COVID-19 until the world travel market is again viable,
It not yet yet known if any COVID-19 protocol is applied to him and his delegation upon arrival in Palau to ensure that no infection is introduced.
But in Palau, the community is still kept out of the loop regarding the Secretary’s visit.
Secretary of Defense Esper’s visit is the highest by a US government official since the visit of the US Secretary of State George P. Shultz in 1986 at the height of the debate and plebiscites to bring down the anti-nuclear constitutional provision, and therefore pave the way for the approval of the Compact of Free Association.
Photo of Defense Secretary Mark Esper from https://media.defense.gov/