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Is the US about to lose a major territory?

Guam’s bid to join the Pacific Island Forum may have to do more with the island nation seeking independence rather than the United States using its influence to get a seat at the regional body.

Last week, Guam announced its intention to join the Forum which has a membership of 17 countries following Kiribati’s move of detaching itself.

Initially made up of independent states, things were changed in 2016 when French Polynesia and New Caledonia were granted membership as the two nations were recognised to have made the United Nations decolonisation list.

Guam has been on the non-self-governing territories list since 1946 and is regarded as an island state under US rule. Guam’s Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio said it should be part of joint decision-making processes, particularly around climate change and security.

“We have, in Guam, a very big desire to be part of discussions that are going to promote regionalism,” Mr Tenorio said.

A shot of Hagatna, Guam's capita. Picture Jeraldine Garcia Santos Facebook
A shot of Hagatna, Guam’s capital. Guam’s bid to join the Pacific Island Forum may have to do more with the island nation seeking independence rather than the United States using its influence to get a seat at the regional body. Picture: Jeraldine Garcia Santos Facebook

He said the government of Guam was in the process of preparing a letter to officially seek membership in the Pacific Islands Forum, where it currently holds observer status.

It is easy to understand how Guam feels isolated in the region. It is a Pacific country and part of Micronesia however it does not have a say in affairs which are Pacific in nature.

Guam houses two large US military bases and the nation has been subjected to threats from North Korea and China, the latter releasing videos of a missile they have named the Guam Killer.

“What is happening on Guam certainly would be helpful for the other nations to understand. The people of Guam are shouldering a burden for peace and security in the region,” Tenorio said.

Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo said Guam’s potential membership of PIF is a conversation worth having.

“Although often seen by outsiders as purely a territory or component unit of the United States, Guam – in a manner not dissimilar to New Caledonia and French Polynesia, or Niue and Cook Islands – is a self-governing Pacific Island,” he said. (Editor’s note – Guam is actually a non self-governing territory).

Guamanians protesting the construction of a US military testing site on a place which provides Guam its water. Picture Prutehi Litekyan - Save Ritidian Facebook
Guamanians protesting the construction of a US military testing site on a place which provides Guam its water. Picture: Prutehi Litekyan – Save Ritidian Facebook

Mr Panuelo noted that Guam was already a member of other Pacific agencies, including the Pacific Island Development Program and the Pacific Community.

“The Federated States of Micronesia understands and respects Guam’s position and interest to join the Pacific Islands Forum,” he said.

The nod for Forum membership could also be reflective of what is happening on the ground in Guam. Guamanians are protesting against testing of explosives on their islands.

The Chamorro who are the natives of Guam have long called for the nation’s independence from US. Once the letter is received by the Forum of its intent to become a full member, there will be a lot of things to consider, the first being Guam’s sovereignty and its ability to agree to policies which may not be in favour of the US.

The Pacific Islands Forum has chosen not to comment on the matter yet.

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