In a remarkable and controversial address to the United Nations General Assembly, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, David Panuelo, has taken aim at Pacific countries that are promoting deep sea mining, and Japan for its decision to release nuclear waste water into the Pacific Ocean.
While opening with not-too-subtle support for China – “I will begin by reiterating that the Federated States of Micronesia’s foreign policy is to be a friend to all and an enemy to none,” Mr Panuelo also condemned Russia.
“Every person in this room and beyond is impacted, in one form or another, by the brutal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. The unprovoked attack against the People of Ukraine by another member of the United Nations is illegal, blatantly disregards international laws and norms, and undermines the UN Charter whose purposes and principles are to maintain international peace and security,” he said.
However his passionate urging for a moratorium on deep sea mining is likely to raise eyebrows across the Pacific, particularly with Nauru who is leading the charge and recently secured the green light for a trial from the International Seabed Authority.
The president reaffirmed Micronesia’s commitment to the Alliance of Countries for a Deep Sea Mining Moratorium.
“It is the view of Micronesia that deep seabed mining in the international seabed area should not occur until the precautionary principle, ecosystem approach, and the polluter pays principle have been implemented.
“In the international seabed area, no such implementation can take place in the absence of the finalisation of a robust, responsible, and comprehensive set of exploitation regulations by the International Seabed Authority.
In what can only be seen as an accusation directed towards Nauru, Mr Panuelo said, “To do otherwise will be a dereliction of our duty to protect and preserve the marine environment and respect the common heritage of mankind.”
In contrast, Nauru’s spokesperson for The Metals Company Peter Jacob, writing for The Pacific Advocate last year, accused critics of deep sea mining as levelling “unjustified claims…at Small Island Developing States like mine”.
“Disappointingly, Nauru is subject to insulting and patronising assertions from those opposing this industry,” he said.
While Micronesia’s leader didn’t specifically name Nauru, he pulled no punches over his next target, Japan.
“Today Micronesia wishes to express our gravest concern about Japan’s decision to discharge, starting next year, nuclear-contaminated water, otherwise known as Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) water into the Pacific ocean.”
The president said that Micronesia “cannot close our eyes to the unimaginable threats of nuclear contamination, marine pollution, and eventual destruction of the Blue Pacific Continent.
“The impacts of this decision are both transboundary and intergenerational in nature.”
“As Micronesia’s Head of State, I cannot allow for the destruction of our Ocean resources that support the livelihood of our people.”
The Japanese embassy in the Federated States of Micronesia has been contacted for comment.