The U.S. is trying to shore up its influence among Pacific island nations against China’s inroads in the region.
First, the U.S. Postal Service needs to get on board.
Negotiations to renew broad, decades-old agreements are intensifying with three nations whose islands lie just north of the equator between Hawaii and the Philippines—the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. All are close allies of the U.S., and the talks over billions in economic support are seen as a test of Washington’s commitment to a region it paid less attention to until Beijing started showing interest.
Another hurdle has come from the Postal Service, said former officials and other people briefed on the discussions. The agency provides mail service for the three nations and is seen by islanders as a sign of U.S. support. In doing so, the Postal Service has disclosed more than $110 million in losses over the past 20 years, adding to its red-ink problems in the U.S.
In a letter and in meetings, the Postal Service has demanded compensation for past losses and for any future arrangements with the Pacific nations, and for months, the people said, Postal Service representatives refused to engage in substantive interagency discussions about renewing the agreements