Palau, a tiny island nation in South Pacific, has agreed to accept 17 Chinese Uighur Muslim prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay. In exchange, the U.S. will give $200 million in aid to the island nation.
The Uighurs, originally hailing from Xinjiang province of North Western China, were detained in 2001 from Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Since then, China has been urging the U.S. government to repatriate them. Fearing persecution of these detainees in China, U.S. has been looking for somewhere to put the Uighurs for years. Albania agreed to house five in 2006, But other countries refused to take these for fear of diplomatic repercussions from China.
Palau is one of the few countries in the world to have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan instead of China. There are reports that the U.S. is prepared to give Palau as much as $200 million in development, budget support and other assistance in return for accepting the inmates.
Johnson Toribiong, the president of Palau said:The decision to repatriate them was a humanitarian gesture intended to help the detainees restart their lives. This is but a small thing we can do to thank our best friend and ally for all it has done for Palau. Palau is honoured and proud to resettle them.
Palau, which was a U.S.-administered U.N. trust territory, gained independence in 1994. The U.S. also agreed to provide defense for the nation of 21,000 people until 2044.