U.S. Policy toward the Pacific Islands

On March 21, 2023, The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) held a briefing in conjunction with the Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus to share findings and policy recommendations from the NBR Special Report, “Charting a New Course for the Pacific Islands: Strategic Pathways for U.S.-Micronesia Engagement.” The report draws from an ongoing track 1.5 strategic dialogue with Pacific Island Countries (PICs) to develop recommendations for improving U.S. policy towards the region. The first year of the dialogue focused on strategic access and U.S.-China strategic competition, U.S. relationships with the Compact of Free Association (COFA) states, the continuing impacts of Covid-19, and other salient topics within the subregion of Micronesia. The dialogue included unique perspectives from the three COFA member countries (the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau), as well as Kiribati, Nauru, and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Dr. Herlevi discussed the difficulties of implementing U.S. policies such as the COFA agreements, local perspectives in Micronesia on U.S.-China strategic competition, and differences of each country’s stance towards China based on its own history and culture. Dr. Tidwell addressed imminent threats faced by PICs in Micronesia, including climate change and lack of healthcare infrastructure, and how to prioritize congressional funding to mitigate these challenges. Ambassador McGann addressed the importance of Pacific agency amid U.S.-China strategic competition and how to identify and optimize U.S. resources to address regional needs. He also offered policy recommendations for the U.S. to engage the region, such as proposing that Congress establish a new interagency framework to coordinate COFA policy. Staff had the opportunity to engage experts with questions of their own leading up to a committee hearing on this topic.



April Herlevi, Senior Research Scientist for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, Center for Naval Analyses and Non-resident Fellow, The National Bureau of Asian Research

Alan Tidwell, Professor of Practice and Director of the Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies, Georgetown University

Steven McGann, Founder, Stevenson Group and Former Ambassador to the Republics of Fiji, Nauru, Kiribati, and the Kingdom of Tonga and Tuvalu


Josh Nezam, Director of Congressional Affairs, The National Bureau of Asian Research