NATO meeting in Washington calls on heads of state and government to commemorate Hawaii

NATO meeting in Washington calls on heads of state and government to commemorate Hawaii

STAR-ADVERTISER FILE: Senator Mazie Hirono and Senator Brian Schatz.


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Senator Mazie Hirono and Senator Brian Schatz.

WASHINGTON >> As NATO leaders met in Washington this week for their 75th anniversary summit, a dozen U.S. senators today called on them to close what they see as a Hawaiian hole in the North Atlantic Treaty, the military alliance’s founding document.

Article 5 of the treaty, which was written a decade before Hawaii’s founding in 1959 and commits all members to collective self-defense, applies only to the areas north of the Tropic of Cancer.

The Hawaiian archipelago, home to 1.44 million Americans, lies south of the Tropic of Cancer. Members of Congress have been pushing for clarification of its status for years, often pointing out that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 triggered the United States’ entry into World War II.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken seen by Reuters today, a dozen Democratic and Republican U.S. senators reminded Blinken “of the importance of making clear that members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would view an armed attack on the state of Hawaii as an attack on all NATO countries.”

According to the letter, in 1949 the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs recommended ratification of the NATO Treaty, but under the premise that the overseas territories would be excluded from it.

“At the time, Hawaii was a U.S. territory and the drafters of the treaty were hesitant to place all of the parties’ territories under the NATO security umbrella. But the world has changed considerably since 1949,” said the letter, which was signed by two Hawaiian senators, Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono (Democrats), and ten other senators, including six Republicans.

The Indo-Pacific is moving to the center of U.S. national security strategy as Washington views China as the United States’ main rival and keeps an eye on the threat from North Korea.

“The silence on whether NATO allies would come to Hawaii’s aid undermines our strategy of deterring conflict in the Indo-Pacific,” said the letter, calling for a formal amendment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The letter – which was also copied to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin – contained a series of questions for Blinken, including whether the State Department had attempted to amend the treaty to include Hawaii.

“The scars of the attack on Pearl Harbor are still visible today,” it said.