US and Japan offer assistance in defence and maritime security

About 160 vessels in Fijian waters were inspected during combined maritime surveillance patrols by New Zealand and Fiji agencies since June. Picture: MEDIUM/FILE PHOTO

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Nauru

YAREN, 05 SEPTEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS) – The United States has announced its intention to commit US$7 million in foreign military financing to Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga, which will support training equipment and other security co-operation priorities identified by these Pacific nations.

In addition, the U.S will provide a combined US$750,000 annually in international military exercise and training to Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to support training for military and police forces.

These raft of military assistance was announced Tuesday in Nauru by U.S Secretary for Interior, Ryan Zinke.

The U.S will also assist Papua New Guinea with harbour security during APEC Leaders Week in Port Moresby.

It’s part of the US$290 million commitment by the U.S to support foreign militaries in the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and peacekeeping capabilities.

Following concerns raised by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in Apia last year, the U.S has offered to support Pacific Islands fully implement the United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea.

The U.S has offered to support a regional capacity training for shipping registries in partnership with Australia, New Zealand and the Forum Secretariat.

The first workshop was held in Suva in July and focused on performing due diligence to ensure vessels registered or applying for registry do not have links to North Korea.

It has already led to increased information sharing amongst Pacific Islands.

“We will hold a follow up conference in November to continue to build technical capacity in this area and address key shipping security issues, according to the U.S brief on its engagement with the Pacific.

On securing maritime boundaries, the U.S is working with Pacific Island neighbours to resolve outstanding maritime boundaries.

“We signed the maritime boundary with Kiribati in 2013 and with the Federated States of Micronesia in 2014. These treaties received advice and consent from the U.S Senate on July 2018 and are now with the President for ratification, said the briefing paper.

The U.S has also successfully concluded negotiations with the Government of Tonga on a new maritime boundary treat and expects to sign the treaty in the near future.

Japan has made a similar offer to assist Pacific nations’ improve their ability to protect the ocean.

“As we have promised, we will work on supporting capacity building in the field of maritime security including maritime law enforcement, co-operation in maritime resource management and environmental conservation, according to a statement submitted to Leaders.

Like the U.S, Japan doesn’t want the Pacific to be used a ‘loophole’ for sanctions as a ‘ship to ship’ transfer.

“In this light, Japan welcomes PIF’s commitment to deregister North Korean registered vessels,” said the Japanese Government statement released to the media.

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