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Taiwan ally Palau invites US to build military bases

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper visited Palau last week

The Palau Capitol Building 

The Palau Capitol Building  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s Pacific ally of Palau has invited the United States to build military bases as a counterweight against growing Chinese influence in the region, reports said Friday (Sept. 4).

President Tommy Remengesau made the suggestion in a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who visited the island nation last week, AFP reported. The leader of Palau said the Pentagon would be welcome to open land bases, port installations and airfields, while Washington could also send its Coast Guard to protect its vast ocean areas.

The two countries already have a “Compact of Free Association,” which means the U.S. military has access to Palau, even though it has no permanent presence. Remengesau said the Compact had been under-utilized but could form the basis for establishing U.S. military installations in his country, AFP reported.

Palau is one of Taiwan’s 15 official diplomatic allies, and has been working closely with Taipei in the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) and on efforts to revive the local tourism industry. The island nation counts a population of 22,000 and consists of 500 islands spread over a vast area east of the Philippines.