The US delegation Mathew J. Mathews, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific and Ambassador for APEC; US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Susan Thornton and US Chargé d’Affaires U.S. Embassy in Apia, Antone (Tony) Greubel.
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA- WEDNESDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 2017: American Samoa’s interest to become a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum has been placed in perspective when United States officials declared that all United States territories around the world can never become a full member of any international organisation while they are under the jurisdiction of the United States.
As the Pacific Islands Forum was in progress last week, American Samoa Chief of Staff, Fiu Johnny Saelua told Talamua that American Samoa wants to become a full member of PIF and that they were already working on drafting a proposal to voice the territory’s intention.
But the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, Mathew J. Mathews who attended the same conference said at international gatherings like the PIF, the US invites American territories in the Pacific to be a part of the delegation and have active roles as observers, a chance to meet other leaders throughout the region.
“We encourage that kind of interaction and it takes place at a regular basis,” said Mathews.
He also explained that the general legal opinion on Treaties and Law of the Department of State has a longstanding position that territories the US provides security and foreign policy on, “cannot be a full member of an international organisation that requires independent role, because they are in-fact territories of the US.”
The US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said it was not a matter of allowing American Samoa to be a full member, as they have not heard or receive any proposal from American Samoa that they want to be a full member of PIF.
American Samoa Chief of Staff, Fiu Johnny Saelua told Talamua that being a full member is an option American Samoa has considered for some time and the Attorney General and the Governors counsel Alema Leota were working on the proposal.
He said once the proposal is finalized and if the Governor agrees, they will then submit the proposal to the Secretary General of the Forum.
Asked if there could be any intervention from the US given that American Samoa is a territory of the US, Fiu said they will wait and see how the US reacts when the proposal is submitted.