The United States has announced plans to install radar systems in Palau, a move that will increase its monitoring ability in the western Pacific region recently rocked by threats from North Korea.
In a joint statement, the U.S Defense Department and the Palau government said they were working to finalize the location of radar towers on the archipelago nation of 22,000 people.
“The radar systems will provide Palau with enhanced maritime law enforcement capability…while also providing the U.S. with greater air domain awareness for aviation safety and security,” they said in the statement dated Aug. 21.
While Palau is an independent nation, it has no military and the U.S. is responsible for its defense under an agreement with Washington.
Under the deal, the U.S. military has access to the islands, although it currently has no troops stationed there.
Palau is about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) south-west of Guam, the U.S. Pacific territory toward which Pyongyang threatened to fire missiles earlier this month, sparking rhetoric of “fire and fury” from President Donald Trump.
The statement said the U.S. proposed the radar installation on July 18, before the recent crisis with North Korea erupted.
“This project is essential to the well-being of the Republic of Palau’s air and maritime domains, as well as to the ability of the United States to maintain its defense of the Republic of Palau,” it said.
“The sites provided (for radar towers), which have yet to be finalized, have been chosen with an eye on minimizing environmental impacts.”
Neither the Palau government nor the U.S. embassy in Koror chose to comment further.
The radar system would help Palau monitor a massive 500,000-square-kilometre (193,000-square-mile) maritime sanctuary it created in 2015.
The sanctuary — approximately the size of Spain — is difficult for Palau to police with respect to illegal fishing.
Source: Marianas Variety