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SHIMUKAPPU, Hokkaido (Kyodo) The leaders of Japan and Pacific island nations gathered Friday for a two-day meeting in Hokkaido, where they are expected to agree on the creation of a “Pacific environment community” to work together in dealing with climate change.

At the fifth Japan-Pacific Islands Forum summit in Shimukappu, involving 17 countries and regions, Prime Minister Taro Aso will pledge a combined ¥50 billion in official development assistance to the island nations over the next three years, Japanese government officials said.

The assistance is aimed at facilitating solar power generation and seawater desalination as well as other projects to improve the social and economic infrastructure of the island nations.

“While facing the challenge of striking a balance between the environment and the economy, (Japan) has become a country that leads the world in environmentalism through the cultivation of technology and accumulation of knowledge,” Aso said at the opening of the summit.

“We’d like to share our technology and knowledge,” Aso said, adding that Japan would like to help the Pacific island countries overcome various challenges as a partner who shares the Pacific Ocean.

The participants are also expected to take up such issues as the new influenza and the global financial crisis, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Japan is also aiming to strengthen its ties with the island nations and will seek their cooperation in Tokyo’s push for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

On the sidelines of the summit, Aso met separately with the leaders of the island nations including the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Nauru and Tuvalu.

Japan is also hoping to enhance its global presence in tackling climate change ahead of a key U.N. climate change meeting in December to adopt a new carbon-capping pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

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