IWAKI, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Japan and Pacific island countries on Saturday called on North Korea to take concrete actions toward denuclearization by complying with U.N. sanctions imposed over its nuclear and missile programs, as they wrapped up a two-day summit in Fukushima Prefecture.
In the joint declaration released after the gathering in the port city of Iwaki, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and leaders from 14 Pacific island nations expressed “deep concern” over the North evading international sanctions by transferring cargoes at sea.
The leaders “strongly called on North Korea to immediately take concrete actions” in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions and pledged “their commitment to exerting continued pressure on North Korea.”
“The leaders stressed the importance of seeking a peaceful and diplomatic resolution toward complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including biological and chemical weapons, and ballistic missiles as well as related facilities of North Korea,” the declaration said.
It is the first time for Japan and the Pacific island countries to mention the North Korean issue in their declaration. Japan has hosted a regional summit with the Pacific island nations every three years since 1997.
“We reaffirmed our bond and toward further cooperation as the region faces various challenges,” Abe told a news conference after the summit.
On the flurry of diplomatic development involving the Korean Peninsula, Abe and Pacific island leaders welcomed an April 28 agreement reached between South and North Korea toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
They also expressed hope that the upcoming summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12 “would deliver North Korea’s concrete actions for such goals.”
The participants at the 8th Pacific Islands Leaders’ Meeting also stressed “the importance of addressing humanitarian concerns, including the immediate resolution of the abductions issue,” referring to the Japanese abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
“The leaders underscored the importance of a free, open and sustainable maritime order based on the rule of law in the Pacific and acknowledged that it will contribute to peace, stability, resilience and prosperity of the region,” the declaration said.
The “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy” is a policy the Abe administration has been pushing recently in an apparent effort to counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China.
The participants also agreed to work closely together in the area of maritime security while noting their obligation to “protect and preserve the maritime environment and to take necessary measures to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems as well as the habitats of depleted, threatened or endangered species and other forms of maritime life,” according to the declaration.
In a keynote speech at the outset of the summit, Abe also pledged to support the Pacific island countries in enhancing their maritime security capabilities, given their vulnerable coastal security.
“Japan will be unstinting in its assistance toward improving countries’ capacity to ‘protect the sea,’ including each country’s legal enforcement capabilities,” Abe said.
“It is the rule of law that gives protection to the nations, big and small, for their inherent rights,” he said.
Abe also vowed Japan’s engagement in human resource development and people-to-people exchanges involving 4,000 people over the next three years to help ensure sustainability of ocean resources in the region and maintain the maritime order.
The summit also focused on building infrastructure, including ports.
The forum brings together Japan, the 14 Pacific island nations, Australia and New Zealand, as well as French Polynesia and New Caledonia, both of which are French territories.
The 14 Pacific island countries are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The previous meeting also took place in Iwaki, an area in northeastern Japan devastated by the massive 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi co-chaired the meeting with Abe.