THE MAINICHI – October 20, 2020 (Mainichi Japan)
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Ministers from Japan and the Pacific island countries and territories agreed Tuesday to cooperate over Tokyo’s hosting of their leaders’ summit in the coastal city of Shima in 2021, with coronavirus response set to be high on the agenda.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who co-chaired an online ministerial meeting, emphasized Japan’s determination to support the Pacific island region in strengthening their health care systems and achieve economic growth amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the chairs’ summary.
Japan has already provided the region with 4 billion yen ($37 million) worth of medical equipment and 580 million yen worth of technical support and medical supplies since the pandemic took hold. It is also set to extend emergency support loans to the countries, struggling with sharp declines in tourism revenues due to the coronavirus.
The ministers “recognized the devastating health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of regional and multilateral collaboration to respond and recover,” the summary said.
They also reaffirmed “the importance of a free, open and sustainable maritime order based on the rule of law in the Pacific” amid China’s rising clout in the region and the development of resilient quality infrastructure in an open and sustainable manner.
Japan has hosted the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting every three years since 1997, focusing on issues ranging from climate change and disaster management to sustainable use of maritime resources.
Shima, in the central Japan prefecture of Mie, hosted the Group of Seven advanced economies’ summit in 2016.
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.