Fukushima to host Japan-Pacific island leaders’ summit in 2015

Kyodo

Cabinet ministers and their Pacific counterparts decided Saturday to hold the next leaders’ summit of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fukushima Prefecture in May 2015, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announced.

The decision was made as participants from the 16-member forum discussed maritime order, resource management and new ways to cooperate in trade and investment, while taking stock of progress on pledges made at a triennial summit of the forum’s chiefs in Okinawa Prefecture in May 2012.

The next leaders’ summit, set for May 22, 2015, is expected to take place at Spa Resort Hawaiians, a leisure complex in Iwaki. Kishida told reporters the event will be a good chance to demonstrate Tohoku’s reconstruction from the 2011 quake and tsunami that flattened coastal areas of Fukushima and other northeastern prefectures.

With China’s growing maritime presence in the Asia-Pacific region in mind, the participants Saturday meanwhile agreed to pursue the establishment of maritime order so any dispute can be resolved in line with international law.

“The ministers reaffirmed common values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and committed to working together to enhance transparency, predictability and accountability throughout the region,” said a summary statement issued after the meeting.

“As like-minded maritime nations, the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to working together to ensure maritime security, maritime safety, sustainable fisheries management and maritime order, including peaceful settlement of disputes and issues based upon established international law,” it said.

Kishida, who co-chaired the one-day meeting with Foreign Minister Phillip Muller of the Marshall Islands, also briefed his counterparts on the territorial quarrel between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and expressed hope Beijing will respond to Tokyo’s call for dialogue.

He further reported on progress made by Japan in fulfilling a pledge at last year’s summit to make “maximum efforts” to provide up to $500 million (¥48.7 billion) in aid to the forum members over three years.

On Sunday, the participants are scheduled to visit Matsushima, a picturesque group of islands near Sendai that was damaged by the massive tsunami of March 11, 2011, to view recovery efforts firsthand.

The Pacific Islands Forum groups 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. Japan has hosted its summits six times since 1997.