Pacific News Minute: Shorelines of States & Territories Give US Control of Vast Areas of the Pacifc

Dec 2, 2015

Credit Wikipedia Commons

In Paris, delegates continue to work on a draft of an agreement at the UN Conference on Climate Change.  They hope to resolve most of the outstanding disputes by the end of this week and finalize a deal next week.  As the world's largest economy and its second largest emitter of carbon - the United States has both enormous influence and enormous responsibility.  But many underestimate just how large an area it controls in the Pacific.  More from Neal Conan, who reports from Paris in the Pacific News Minute.

US control extends out into the Pacific from the coast lines of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska and of course from Hawaii.  But then there are US territories which come in two categories.  Guam, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa all enjoy a degree of local autonomy - but they are all overseen directly by the federal government.  At the moment, Washington has closed waters around American Samoa to preserve stocks of tuna, which locals would like to keep open to preserve employment.

The other category of territory comprises uninhabited islands, reefs and atolls… several of them, former military bases.  Famous battles were fought for Wake and Midway Islands during the Second World War; the others include some of the most remote and isolated pieces of land on earth: Baker, Howland, Jarvis Islands, Palmyra, the Johnston Atolls and Kingman Reef.

Three Former Pacific Territories went on to become independent nations.  The Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.  They all continue a relationship with the US through Compacts of Free Association - the US has full authority over defense in exchange for access to US Health Care and to services like the Post Office.  Citizens of COFA countries can travel freely to the US and do not need permits to work; all three though, sent delegations here to Paris to fight for their rights in any climate change agreement.