The U.S military is proposing a new defence site in Palau as part of its strategy to beef up regional security amid escalating tensions in the Indo-Pacific.

According to a statement from the Joint Region Marianas, engineers from the U.S Navy, U.S Air Force and U.S Marine Corps brief Palauan leaders and citizens about the proposed new projects that include repairs and expansion to the Peleliu airstrip and Peleliu’s south dock.

Under the Compact of Free Association, the U.S has exclusive defence rights in Palau, where the military may use the country’s land, water and air.

The Department of Defence is building reinforced foundations and pads for a tactical mobile over-the-horizon radar. The US$118 million facility will be used to monitor China’s movement in the region, where Beijing has been conducting ballistic missile tests and amplifying its threats to take over Taiwan.

“When the government of Palau sought to improve the infrastructure in Peleliu, we looked together to the designation of this new defence site to strengthen the U.S’s ability to secure and defend Palau and meet this request,” said Harry Elliott, counsel for the Indo-Pacific Command’s senior military official to Palau.

“We are one Pacific family, and the intent of these sites is to promote the quality of life for the people in Palau, and to enhance our capabilities throughout the region to include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, and power projection,” he added.

Defence officials and engineers met with government leaders and about 200 residents from 13 – 15 May at the Senate building in Koror to discuss the new proposed designation of a new defence site in Peleliu.

“Open and honest communication will remain a key element as we work with the government and people of Palau to reach our mutual goals and we are committed to involving the Palauan people every step of the way,” said Elliott, who led the community engagements along with Judy Sanchez, deputy political-military advisor.

Peleliu Governor Emais Roberts described the meetings as “a positive step toward the designation of the new defence site.”

“It’s all about partnership,” Roberts said, noting that the airfield expansion was requested by the national and state governments.

“I told the people of Peleliu that anything that’s happening needs to come in front of the public, everyone needs to know about it, we’ll have a consensus of where to go, and then we’ll proceed,” Roberts said.

“The last two meetings, one in Peleliu, the one in Koror, so far everybody is on board. They want this project to move as fast as possible. The benefit is so great for the people of Peleliu,” he added.

Along with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, Palau plays a role in supporting the U.S security presence in the Pacific islands region at a time of increasing strategic competition between the U.S and China.

The Biden Administration’s 2022 Indo-Pacific Strategy refers to the compacts as “the bedrock of the U.S role in the Pacific.”

“We are committed to being good partners as we work together to defend the homeland, deter aggression, and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Rear Admiral Greg Huffman, IndoPacom senior military official to Palau.

Last year, officials disclosed plans for the deployment of missile batteries in Palau.

The Palau National Congress, however, passed a resolution opposing the proposed missile installation.