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    US Nears New Cooperation Deals With Pacific Island Nations

    US Nears New Cooperation Deals With Pacific Island Nations

    (AP) — The Biden administration is nearing deals with two Pacific Island nations to extend ties that are considered critical to maintaining balance in the U.S.- rivalry for influence in a region where the Chinese are rapidly expanding their economic, diplomatic and clout.

    This week, the U.S. signed memorandums of understanding with the Marshall Islands and Palau that administration officials hope will pave the way for the quick completion of broader agreements that will govern the islands' relations with Washington for the next two decades. Those ties grant the U.S. unique military and other security rights on the islands in return for substantial aid.

    The administration believes that extending those so-called “Compacts of Free Association” agreements will be key to efforts to retain American and blunt Chinese assertiveness throughout the Indo-Pacific.

    The memorandums signed this week lay out the amounts of money that the federal government will provide to the Marshall Islands and Palau if their compacts are successfully renegotiated. Negotiations on a similar memorandum with a third compact country, Micronesia, are ongoing.

    The current 20-year compacts with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia expire this year; the current compact with Palau expires in 2024 but administration officials said they believe all three can be renewed and signed by mid- to late-spring.

    Officials would…

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