NEWS

FOCUS: China’s Shadow Looms Over Summit Of Japan And Pacific Island Nations

As leaders of Japan and Pacific island nations gathered last Friday-Saturday to discuss their usual checklist for co-operation in dealing with disasters and climate change, one country was likely to
24 May 2015 09:22
FOCUS: China’s Shadow Looms Over Summit Of Japan And Pacific Island Nations
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama greets his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, with wife Mary Bainimarama at the Tsunami-hit area in Fukushima. Photo: Jyoti Pratibha

As leaders of Japan and Pacific island nations gathered last Friday-Saturday to discuss their usual checklist for co-operation in dealing with disasters and climate change, one country was likely to be at the back of their minds: China.

Gathering for the seventh Pacific islands Leaders Meeting in Fukushima Prefecture, Tokyo, is keen to ramp up its presence in the resource-rich region, where it has been strongly involved since the late 1980s, Japanese officials said.

The summit brings together Japan and the leaders of 14 Pacific island nations.

Experts familiar with Japan’s ties with the island nations say that China has stepped up its presence in the region since holding its own summit with some Pacific island states in 2006, providing huge amounts of aid. Japan began holding its summit with the forum in 1997.

During the two-day meeting in the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to deliver a keynote speech to unveil a new vision for Japanese diplomacy toward Pacific island states, a foreign ministry official said.

Tokyo will include an aid package over the next three years, the official added.

In the previous summit in 2012 in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, pledged aid worth up to US$500million.

Japan’s new package is expected to exceed that amount, based on a rough draft of the leaders’ declaration to be released after the meeting, diplomatic sources said.

The draft also suggests that Japan and Pacific Island members will speed up efforts to collect the remains of Japanese war dead in the island states, where fierce battles were fought during World War II, and co-operate over reforms of the UN Security Council, the sources said.

The draft is also expected to note Japan’s contributions as a peace-loving nation over the past 70 years since the war’s end.

The officials said Mr Abe, leaders of the 14 Pacific island states, and ministers from Australia and New Zealand, who are also part of the Pacific Islands Forum, are expected to take up five pillars of co-operation.

They will cover areas such as maritime issues and fisheries, disaster management, and efforts to combat climate change ahead of a UN conference to fight global warming in Paris later this year.

Japan hopes to share its lessons from the 2011 triple disaster with officials from the island nations, which are especially vulnerable to the impact of global warming. Last Friday, Mr Abe and the leaders also visited a tsunami-affected area in Fukushima, the site of the nuclear crisis that began following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the officials said.

Sustainable development for the region and boosting people-to-people exchanges are two other areas where Japan hopes to continue working with the Pacific island states, the officials said.

The meeting includes Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The United States, which participated in the meeting for the first time in 2012, will not take part this time.

To strengthen Japan’s ties not only with the entire region but with each country, Mr Abe is expected to hold bilateral talks on the fringes of the summit.

Prior to the meeting, he met with a few leaders including first with Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on Monday.

One of the highlights of the summit in Fukushima is Fiji’s return to the summit. Japan did not invite Fiji’s prime minister in the 2009 and 2012 summits.

After Fiji held a democratic election last year, Japan decided to invite the Prime Minister, a move regarded by pundits as a way to win back influence in the country, as China had stepped in recently to increase its presence there.

Feedback:  newsroom@fijisun.com.fj

 




Subscribe to E-Edition
pacific island top up
Air Nuigini
Subscribe-to-Newspaper
Fiji Sun Instagram
Fiji Plus
Subscribe-to-Newspaper
error: