NAGO, OKINAWA PREF. – Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and leaders of Pacific island countries agreed Saturday to strengthen ties on maritime issues and natural disasters, with Japan pledging up to $500 million (¥40 billion) in aid over the next three years.
The United States took part for the first time in the triennial Japan-Pacific Islands Forum as Washington shifts its focus to the Asia-Pacific region to counter China’s rising assertiveness.
“The blessings of nature and global connections provided by the Pacific have contributed to the development of Japan,” Noda said on the summit’s final day. “Now we hope to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Pacific region through this summit.”
The leaders of 16 nations and one territory issued a joint declaration stressing the importance of international law in maintaining maritime order in the region, an apparent reference to territorial disputes between China and other nations in the South Pacific.
Drawing on Japan’s experience of the March 2011 disasters, Noda announced an insurance program to help Pacific island nations deal with the risk of natural disasters on a pilot basis, according to the declaration.
The program will provide short-term liquidity to financially weak governments in the region that lack the capacity to fund initial response measures following major disasters. It will be implemented in November, in collaboration with the World Bank.
Noda also unveiled an initiative to reduce disaster risks by establishing an early warning system for earthquakes, tsunami and other natural disasters in cooperation with the United States.
Regarding maritime issues, taken up for the first time at the summit, the leaders agreed to strengthen ties on security and safety, and to cooperate on the management of fisheries resources.