(Reuters) -The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) said on Saturday that it will temporarily rescind its withdrawal from the Pacific’s main political forum, as U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken paid a strategic visit to the Pacific Island region.
Blinken reassured leaders of 18 Pacific Island nations that Washington and its allies are committed to providing security and COVID vaccines, as China steps up its aid and influence in the region.
In February 2021, the FSM and four other nations started their withdrawal https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-pacific-forum-idUKKBN2A906K from the Pacific Island Forum (PIF), saying that an informal agreement to elect a new chief diplomat from their Micronesia sub-region was not honoured.
“I reinforced my country’s commitment to the region and the PIF’s critical role in driving regional action,” Blinken told a news conference after the meeting.
“We welcome the decision by the Micronesia states to pause their withdrawal from the PIF to allow for continued discussions.”
The foreign ministry of FSM said in a statement on Saturday that after consultations about PIF reforms offered to the leaders of the country, the decision was made to “temporarily rescind the withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Forum so as to materialise these reforms offered … by no later than June 2022.”
FSM, made up of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae states and with a population of just under 114,000 people, is spread across the western Pacific Ocean comprising more than 600 islands.
Despite being sparsely populated, the Pacific Island countries are strategic locations that have in recent years become a battleground for influence between China and the United States and its allies.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham and Lidia Kelly; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Nadi; Writing in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)
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