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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Republic of the Marshall Islands President David Kabua to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III:  Well, good afternoon, President Kabua. Welcome to the Pentagon. It is indeed a pleasure to have you here in Washington. And I know that President Biden is looking forward to your participation in the first U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit next - later this week.

Mr. President, the partnership between the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands is strong and we have long shared the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States is a proud Pacific nation, with a state, a long coastline, and territories in the Pacific. 

So we have deep, longstanding ties with our fellow Pacific countries. You are our neighbors, our allies and our friends. And the Pacific Islands are an essential part of the Indo-Pacific region. Our countries are bound by a shared history, shared values, and profound links between our people. We are more than just two Pacific nations, we are family.

I'd also like to recognize so many citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands for their proud record of service in the U.S. Armed Forces and we're deeply grateful for the contributions of Marshallese to our defense. Mr. President, I also want to thank you for your nation's willingness to host U.S. forces, including your ongoing support of U.S. forces at the U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein. 

Now, the Pacific faces serious challenges today, including the profound damage from climate change, the anguish of the pandemic, and the actions of those who would undermine the rules-based international order, but the United States remains your steadfast partner, committed to you now and into the future.

The Department of Defense is deeply committed to our defense responsibilities to the Marshall Islands, as part of the Compact of Free Association, and we look forward to successfully negotiating the economic assistance provisions of that compact. That will further strengthen our partnership and help us work together toward a free, open, and secure region.

So Mr. President, it's great to have you here. I thank you for all that you're doing for our shared security and I look forward to a great discussion.