Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from American Samoa for sponsorship of this resolution and Mr. Lantos, the chairman, and the ranking member from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen).

   Today I rise to offer my endorsement of a resolution that recognizes the enduring ties of the United States and the Pacific Island nations. Our Nation's links with the Pacific Islands extend back to the earliest days of the American Republic, when New England whalers, symbolized by Captain Ahab, sailed in the South Pacific. In those early days, clipper ships also set sail from American ports across the Pacific in pursuit of the China trade. American missionaries soon followed, journeying to the Pacific Islands to deepen the cultural and religious ties between our two peoples.

   Our bonds to our Pacific neighbors have been further enhanced by their ethnic and historic links to our 50th State, Hawaii, America's gateway to the Pacific.

   When war came to the Pacific at Pearl Harbor on that day of infamy, December 7, 1941, the peoples of the Pacific joined the United States in turning back the threat of the invader. It was two Solomon Islanders who bravely carried a coconut hidden in a canoe through enemy lines with the immortal words: ``Commander ..... native knows position ..... he can pilot ..... 11 alive ..... need small boat ..... Kennedy.''

   The rescue of the crew of PT-109, including a future President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, is remembered as one of the great epic stories of the war in the Pacific.

   In the six decades since the end of that war, our diplomatic, commercial and cultural ties have grown steadily with our Pacific neighbors. One legacy of the American President rescued by the Pacific Islanders has been the Peace Corps, which has sent volunteers to work together with the peoples of the Pacific for the past 40 years.

   The East-West Center in Hawaii, established by the United States Congress in 1960, has been a vital source for cultural and academic exchange and for a dialogue on critical issues of mutual concern. The center has played a pivotal role in cementing the ties between the peoples of the United States and the peoples of the Pacific Islands. I commend the center for hosting the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders here in Washington, D.C. Therefore, I welcome the opportunity to offer my strong and enthusiastic support for House Resolution 355, welcoming America's good friends, the leaders of the Pacific Islands, to Washington, D.C.

   I offer them and the people of the Pacific a warm welcome of ``aloha.''

   Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.