Chuuk is one of the four constituent parts of the Federated States of Micronesia; a collection of over a thousand islands located north of Papua New Guinea.
Having been part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific, which was administered by the United States. Micronesia nominally became an independent state in 1979.
It signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States in 1986. This means that Washington handles the country’s defense and foreign affairs and provides financial assistance.
Over the years, tensions have grown between Chuuk, which has about half the country’s population of 110,000 people, and the three other states of the Federation over the issue of state finances.
Originally, Chuuk intended to hold a referendum on independence in 2015. However, this was postponed until March 2019 over the constitutionality of secession.
This later vote was then also delayed until November 2020. However, in February 2020, it was announced that the referendum had been postponed a third time, until March 2022.
At this stage, it’s unclear when, or even whether, a vote will in fact be held. Importantly, the United States has come out against independence and has said it won’t negotiate a separate free association agreement with an independent Chuuk.
But others suspect that the country could instead look to China for funding if this happens. This adds an interesting geopolitical dimension to the issue.