SHIMUKAPPU, Hokkaido (Kyodo) Prime Minister Taro Aso announced Saturday that he would offer ¥50 billion in aid to Pacific island nations for the next three years to help them counter climate change and other challenges.

Concluding a two-day summit in Shimukappu, Hokkaido, the 16 Pacific Islands Forum members and Japan adopted a joint declaration affirming stronger ties and cooperation in dealing with climate change by forming a “Pacific Environment Community.”

The ¥50 billion in aid, up from the ¥45 billion Japan offered at the previous Pacific islands summit in 2006, includes ¥6.8 billion aid to facilitate solar power generation and seawater desalination.

By helping the Pacific island nations cope with climate change, which has become a crucial issue for them, Japan apparently aims to enhance its global presence in the runup to a key U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen in December to adopt a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol.

Japan’s continued assistance to the Pacific island nations also reflects its efforts to enhance relationships with these countries, which have supported Tokyo’s push for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, while China and Taiwan have also recently been stepping up support to these nations.

Japan also said it would assist in developing a total of 3,500 human resources in the areas of the environment, health, and education, while promoting person-to-person exchanges of more than 1,000 young people in the next three years.

During Saturday’s session, the leaders discussed ways to overcome vulnerabilities facing the Pacific island nations such as health, water supply, education and human security.

The leaders also discussed the global spread of H1N1 influenza A, which has been spreading rapidly in Japan.

“It is important to cooperate globally in countering the threats of infections that spread rapidly across borders,” Aso told the leaders at the outset of the Saturday’s meeting.

“We’d like to cooperate in dealing with the issue by sharing information and measures to (prevent) the spread of infections.”

Aso met separately with the leaders of the island nations, including the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Nauru, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Tonga, on the sidelines of the summit to boost Tokyo’s ties with each country.

During Friday’s session, Japan and the Pacific island nations agreed to work together in the battle against climate change and to cooperate in adopting a “fair and effective” carbon-capping framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.

The summit meeting was cohosted by Aso and Niue Premier Toke Talagi.

The nations attending the summit, apart from Japan, are members of the Pacific Islands Forum, which was launched in 1971.

Japan began hosting the Pacific islands summit in 1997 and has since held one every three years. The fourth summit was held in 2006 in Okinawa Prefecture.

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