Japan, Pacific leaders to discuss free, open Indo-Pacific – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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Japan, Pacific leaders to discuss free, open Indo-Pacific

Written by on July 2, 2021

Leaders of Japan and Pacific island nations and territories are set to hold an online meeting Friday, with Tokyo aiming to promote its free and open Indo-Pacific initiative in an apparent effort to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to pledge Japan’s continued cooperation with the island states in such fields as anti-virus measures, maritime security, climate change and economic development at the virtual meeting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is pictured speaking with his Cook Islands counterpart Mark Brown in an online meeting at his office on June 30, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office)(Kyodo)

The ninth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting will be joined by representatives from Japan, 14 Pacific island nations, Australia and New Zealand, as well as French Polynesia and New Caledonia, both of which belong to France.

These islands carry high strategic importance for Tokyo in both economic and security arenas, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said. China has provided loans and development assistance to projects such as the construction of infrastructure facilities in the region.

Japan will call for Pacific islands’ cooperation toward the realization of its free and open Indo-Pacific initiative that advocates democracy, respect for human rights and rules-based order in the region, according to the ministry.

As for measures against the pandemic, Japan is expected to announce the provision of COVID-19 vaccines to the Pacific islands through the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing framework.

Tokyo has hosted the regional summit with the Pacific island nations once every three years since 1997. This year’s meeting was originally scheduled to be held in Shima, a central Japan city, but switched to a virtual setting due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

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.

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