Skip to content

Congressional Hearing Again Confirms: Freely Associated States Are Independent, Sovereign Nations

In a congressional hearing yesterday on recent U.S. agreements with the three Freely Associated States, Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon turned the discussion towards Puerto Rico.

Roughly an hour and 20 minutes into the hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, Gonzalez-Colon asked  Joseph Yun, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Compact Negotiations, to help clarify some fundamental points.

“I’d like to begin with basic questions just to help our constituents better understand our relationship with the Freely Associated States,” said Rep. Gonzalez-Colon. “In an April 2023 interview at the Hudson Institute you explained that the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia have signed Compacts of Free Association and also enjoy today, in your words, ‘complete independence.'”

“You also noted that the relations are handled through the Department of State because the Freely Associated States are foreign and completely sovereign countries,” she continued. “Just to confirm, the Free Associated States are three independent nations and they are each their own country, each a sovereign republic, is that correct?”

“Correct,” Special Envoy Yun confirmed off camera.

The Resident Commissioner continued, asking “are people born in the Freely Associated States…U.S. citizens or nationals?” Yun explained that they were neither, but are citizens of their own nations.

“Under the terms of the free association agreements, compact citizens can migrate and work in the United States, but they are not U.S. citizens or nationals.” Gonzalez-Colon further clarified.

“Right,” Special Envy Yun affirmed.

“Can the Compacts of Free Association be terminated either by mutual agreement or unilaterally?” the Resident Commissioner asked. Special Presidential Envoy Yun again agreed with the Resident Commissioner that the bilateral agreement could be ended by either country individually or both of them in a joint decision.

“In fact,” the Resident Commissioner continued, “in March of … last year, the Department of Interior testified before the Senate that ‘under the Compacts both the United States and the FAS individually retain their right to full independence, and that includes an unencumbered ability to terminate the free association status defined by the Compacts. Termination may be done by mutual agreement, or each nation may do so unilaterally or by mutual agreement, subject to the transitional terms and provisions set forth in the Compact.'”

“If free association agreements are terminated,” Gonzalez-Colon proceeded in her questioning, “will Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia remain independent, sovereign nations? They do not go back to being a U.N. trust territory administered by the U.S., correct?”

“Correct,” Special Envoy Yun again confirmed.

Gonzalez-Colon concluded by explaining that the purpose behind her line of questioning was “to highlight the reality that, at the end of the day, despite our compact agreement, the freely associated states are independent nations.”

Message for Puerto Rico

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy Yun, whose 33-year diplomatic career included an ambassadorship in Malaysia and a role as the top U.S. negotiator with North Korea, now serves as the nation’s top official on free association relationships with the United States.  His remarks at the House committee hearing yesterday make it clear that the FAS are independent nations, and that the end of a COFA or free association agreement, which could happen at the behest of either party, would not change that.

Some Puerto Rico leaders, particularly those who have supported the discredited “enhanced commonwealth” arrangement, have tried to portray free association as a completely new sort of relationship, one that confers U.S. citizenship and U.S. financial support to a new Republic of Puerto Rico while leaving the U.S. helpless to define the relationship differently or change its mind. In real life, this has never been the case.

Citizens of freely associated states do not have U.S. citizenship.  The agreements are not permanent.  A sovereign Puerto Rico could not strongarm the U.S. Congress into doing something it may not want to do.

Independence and Sovereign Free Association: What’s the Difference?


Read the Department of Interior Testimony to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 29, 2022 here.

1 thought on “Congressional Hearing Again Confirms: Freely Associated States Are Independent, Sovereign Nations”

  1. Freely Associated States are not sovereign or independent. The assertion presented here by the pro-statehood Resident Commissioner is false and misleading. The very essence of being free and independent is control over your own territory. The Associated States lack this. The USA maintains military bases on each of their territories and it is expressly stated in their Compacts of Free Association that these bases will remain, that this is non-negotiable, and that the United States will handle their foreign affairs. The ability, the right, to conduct your own foreign affairs is another indispensable part of sovereignty.
    Aside from these two factors, which are not the only ones that can be pointed to to show the falsehood of the assertions propagated here, there is yet another problem with these so-called Compacts of Free Association. For many years the United States conducted nuclear testing on these islands, especially in the Marshalls. Whole populations were forcibly removed from the islands where the testing took place, but not far enough away to escape the radiation emitted by the explosions. As a result many people died from radiation poisoning and thousands of others were contaminated for life; suffering debilitating illnesses until their deaths. Their offspring have also suffered from the same illnesses because the radiation has mutated their chromosomes and/or genes. The local governments have been seeking compensation from the United States government for decades and what they have received for their citizens is considered inadequate by them. As a result, in the case of the Marshall Islands, the Compact of Free Association recently expired and has not been renewed because the Marshall Islands government has been demanding more compensation, which I believe includes medical care for life for their citizens as well as screening for all children going forward. The United States government has refused, saying that they have provided enough compensation and that they will provide no more.
    None of this is mentioned in the conveniently choreographed exchange between the Resident Commissioner and the US Presidential Special Envoy Yun that has been provided to us here, both of whom are clearly in lockstep with each other.
    This is just one more example of how the people of Puerto Rico, and of the United States as well, continue to be lied to and intentionally misled. These people who spread these falsehoods must be carefully watched to avoid a repeat of what happened in 1954, when they lied to the People of Puerto Rico by telling them that a vote for the Estado Libre Asociado status law (Compact of Free Association) would make Puerto Rico free and independent. When they later found they had been lied to it was too late. Let’s not let that happen again.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Magazine, and enjoy exclusive benefits

Subscribe to the online magazine and enjoy exclusive benefits and premiums.

[wpforms id=”133″]