The Nevada National Guard and the Republic of Fiji hosted a signing ceremony Thursday at the country’s capital of Suva, to officially enter into a maritime security MOU. The partnership makes Fiji the 76th country to join the State Partnership Program (SPP), a Department of Defense joint security cooperation program administered by the National Guard Bureau and executed by State Adjutants General. According to the US National Guard, the addition of Fiji to the program “is a reflection of the US military commitment to the Oceania region.”
Ten Indo-Pacific countries currently maintain SPP relationships with US states. With the exception of Nevada and Idaho, each state with an Indo-Pacific SPP relationship borders the Pacific Ocean. Nevada also shares a partnership with the Kingdom of Tonga. As part of this new agreement, the Nevada National Guard says it will work closely with the Republic of Fiji’s military forces and the Kingdom of Tonga “to further the countries’ mutual interests throughout the Indo-Pacific Region.” At the signing ceremony, RFMF Commander Rear Admiral, Viliame Naupoto said some areas of focus will include peacekeeping operations, disaster preparedness, security, and medical readiness. This spring, the SPP will send a small assessment team consisting of Nevada Guardsmen, Indo-Pacific Command service members, and embassy personnel to evaluate Fiji’s capacity for peacekeeping and maritime security.
Nevada plays an important role in US security. In addition to its partnerships with Tonga and Fiji, the state is also home to one of the largest defense contracting companies in the US, the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). SNC provides the integrated airborne systems for the C-130, and was named a Tier 1 Superior Supplier for U.S. Air Force.
The US Embassy in Suva is one of only a handful of Oceanic American Embassies that represent the United States diplomatically for the small island nations in the region. The other embassies are in Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands. The United States established diplomatic relations with Fiji in 1971 following its independence from the United Kingdom. In 2014, Fiji held elections that restored democratically elected government to the country for the first time since 2006. Since then, relations between the United States and Fiji have been robust. Both nations share a multi-ethnic heritage and a common view of regional Pacific Island issues. Despite the country’s small population of less than 1 million, US exports to Fiji reached $55 million in 2016. US imports from Fiji reached $203.3 million, up from $202.6 million the previous year.
Caleb Darger is a Research and Communications Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He graduated from Brigham Young University where he studied history, Asian Studies, and Chinese.