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Tiny Palau looks to big friends to boost tourism industry and security

Palau President Surangel S. Whipps. (ANJ)
Palau President Surangel S. Whipps. (ANJ)
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06 Jun 2024 01:06:19 GMT9
06 Jun 2024 01:06:19 GMT9

Arab News Japan

TOKYO: Palau, one of the smallest countries in the world is trying to expand its tourist business but says it is having trouble with one of the biggest countries in the world.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, Palau President Surangel S. Whipps described his country (population 20,000) as a “paradise,” but like other island nations in the Pacific rising seawaters caused by a changing global climate threaten its very existence.

Pollution, COVID and over-fishing have also hurt the island’s economy, prompting the government to restrict fishing to allow stocks to replenish. COVID saw tourism plummet but it has now recovered to 60-percent of pre-COVID figures.

There was a time when Chinese tourists flocked to Palau, but the country’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan put an end to that.

Palau’s Ministry of Finance recently suffered a cyber-security breach, which Whipps said was probably caused by forces in China seeking to destabilize Palau and its relations with other countries.

“China wants to weaken those relationships and show our vulnerability,” Whipps said, referring to the attack as national harassment. “This is not the first incident where China doesn’t respect our boundaries.”

The cyber-attack came soon after Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia signed a “Compact of Free Association” agreement with the United States for assistance and security guarantees.

Whipps is now looking to the Japanese market to restore economic health to the tourism industry and controlled catches to boost the fishing industry.

Whipps was in Japan to meet Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio to discuss business and security, and prepare for the Pacific Island Leaders Meeting in July.

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