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American Samoa delegate urges prompt passage of the COFA Amendments Act of 2023 for Pacific security 

by | Feb 28, 2024 | American Samoa, Congress | 1 comment

American Samoa Delegate Uifa’atali Amata Coleman Radewagen (R) continues to emphasize the urgency of completing the passage of the Compact of Free Association agreements legislation as an integral part of the security of the Pacific region. On Thursday, she spoke with Speaker Mike Johnson to convey her viewpoint as a Member of Congress from the region.

“I was pleased that the Speaker told me he recognizes the urgency of this matter and said it’s getting priority attention,” she said.

The delegate also signed a bipartisan letter to the Speaker urging the inclusion of the Compact of Free Association (COFA) Amendments Act of 2023, HJ Res 96, a bill that she cosponsored, in the next available legislative vehicle. 

“The Compacts of Free Association (COFA) include non-expiring provisions securing vital defense rights in strategically critical areas of the Pacific increasingly contested by the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” members state in the letter.

As Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee’s Indo-Pacific Task Force, Congresswoman Amata took part in leading the congressional examination of the legislation and related issues, followed by the successful passage of the Act by the Committee under Chairman Bruce Westerman. 

The letter, led by Representative Steve Womack (R) of Arkansas and Representative Ed Case (D) of Hawaii, included the signatures of 48 members of Congress and states: “The COFA are the cornerstone of US presence in the Pacific Islands and have been recognized as strategically critical by numerous national security documents, including the 2022 Indo-Pacific Strategy. The PRC currently is waging political warfare to expand its influence and disrupt friendly relations throughout the region, making our deep and enduring partnerships with these nations more critical than ever. Senior officials from the Department of State and the Department of Defense repeatedly emphasized in Congressional hearings how crucial these relationships are to US presence and operations in the Indo-Pacific.”

Delegate Coleman Radewagen is also an original cosponsor of the Pacific Partnership Act, sponsored by Representative Case, that builds on strengthening US engagement in the Pacific Islands region in another key congressional effort that dovetails with finalizing COFA as US policy. 

Citizens of the three Freely Associated States—the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau—serve in the US military as well as reside in the United States. These island nations comprise a combined area of the Pacific waters the size of the continental United States and are a major element of the strategic stability of the region. 

The letter continues, “Failing to ratify these agreements negotiated in good faith would be the most self-destructive gift the United States could give to the PRC in the Pacific, damaging US credibility and deterrent capability in the FAS and the larger community of Pacific Island nations. Indeed, the delay in approval of the COFA stands in contrast to PRC success in establishing diplomatic relations with Solomon Islands in 2019 and, more recently, the Republic of Nauru.”

“Pacific Island nations understandably view these agreements as litmus tests for United States partnership. They are watching to see if we will follow through on our commitments, and should we fail, the PRC will further exploit that vacuum with further intervention and disruption rather than open and lawful competition. As a result, a broad coalition has openly urged Congress to pass these agreements into law: this includes the Heritage Foundation, the Select Committee for Strategic Competition with the Chinese Communist Party, and the Administration.”

They conclude, “Each day that we do not pass this legislation into law is an opportunity missed and an opening for our enemies to sow doubt about our viability as a partner and our strength as an ally. With so much at stake in the Indo-Pacific, we urge you to include this legislation in any available vehicle.”



William-Jose Velez Gonzalez

William-Jose Velez Gonzalez

William-José Vélez González is a native from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, and a graduate from Florida International University in biomedical engineering, engineering management, and international relations. A designer with a strong interest in science, policy, and innovation, he previously served as the national executive vice president of the Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association. William-José lives in Washington, DC, where he works at the Children's National Research Institute and runs Opsin, a nonprofit design studio dedicated to making design more accessible. You can see him on Love is Blind as Lydia's brother. He is the founder and Editor in Chief of Pasquines.

1 Comment

  1. Jose

    Why do the COFA require an act enacted into law instead of a treaty signed by the executive and ratified by the Senate? Wouldn’t the treaty have a higher standing?


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