Q&A: He got US funding to protect his tiny island nation. Now what?

By Francisco "A.J." Camacho | 03/18/2024 06:56 AM EDT

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. discusses how a US alliance is helping bring the American dream to his country while also guarding it against climate change.

Palau's President Surangel Whipps Jr. attends a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. at a press conference on June 15, 2023. Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Finding Palau on a map is a challenge, even for some Palauans.

The country only has 180 square miles of land and is located in the vast Pacific Ocean. And it has a similarly tiny economy: $218 million is Palau’s annual GDP.

Yet on March 9, Palau secured four times that much money in economic assistance from the United States, demonstrating the country’s outsize diplomatic and strategic value.


The money comes after President Joe Biden signed the renewal of Palau’s Compact of Free Association with the U.S., an agreement that gives Washington unfettered military access to the islands in exchange for, among other things, almost $900 million in aid for Palau over the next 20 years.