Japan will take steps to beef up collaboration with Pacific island nations at a summit next week to promote the Indo-Pacific strategy advocated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
While aimed at countering China’s influence in the region, Tokyo also hopes to confirm the nations will go along with Japan’s policy of keeping maximum pressure on North Korea toward denuclearization, sources said.
The eighth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting, dubbed Palm 8, will be held from May 18 to 19 in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.
In recent years, China has been trying to raise its profile in Pacific islands nations by providing more infrastructure and other aid. This has prompted the Japanese government to help the countries improve their ability to uphold maritime law, the sources said.
As for North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, Japan is increasingly concerned about the possibility of a reconciliatory mood spreading worldwide following last month’s landmark summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Japan will stress that it feels it is important to continue applying maximum pressure to North Korea and ask the island nations to cooperate in blocking the North’s attempts to bypass the economic sanctions imposed under U.N. Security Council resolutions, including ship-to-ship transfers of banned goods, the sources said.
The island nations summit, launched in 1997, is held every three years. The 2018 meeting will be joined by 17 countries — Japan, Australia, New Zealand and 14 island nations, including the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The previous meeting in 2015 was also held in Iwaki. By holding the summit in Fukushima again, Japan hopes to demonstrate the progress made in rebuilding parts of the prefecture damaged by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami, a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
The prefecture is also home to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, where an unprecedented triple core meltdown occurred after the tsunami knocked out all power to the old and poorly protected plant.