Japan commits to address climate change, other challenges in Pacific

Japan vowed Friday to continue helping Pacific island nations address climate change and other challenges such as disasters as it expressed appreciation for a declaration issued here by countries comprising the Pacific Islands Forum.

"We are islanders. As an island country in the Pacific Ocean, Japan is willing to contribute to a robust development of this region as a whole under common objectives and vision," Shunichi Suzuki, senior vice foreign minister, said at the 25th Pacific Islands Forum Post-Forum Dialogue held in this Pacific Ocean state.

Japan is one of the forum's 13 dialogue partners that also include the United States, China, and the European Union, among others.

This year's forum, chaired by the Republic of Marshall Islands, a country of 29 atolls and five islands in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, including the capital Majuro, carries the theme, "Marshalling the Pacific Response to the Climate Challenge."

"Japan highly appreciates the Majuro Declaration on climate change," Suzuki said of the declaration issued Thursday by forum leaders to highlight their "strong political commitment to be the region of Climate Leaders" and "spark a new wave of climate leadership that accelerates the reduction and phasing down of greenhouse gas pollution worldwide."

The forum, set up in 1971 to enhance cooperation among Pacific Ocean states, is composed of Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Fiji has been suspended from the forum since 2009.

Suzuki, who was sent by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as his special envoy to the Post-Dialogue Forum, said Japan and Pacific island countries "share not only geographical characteristics as island states embraced by the Pacific Ocean, but also challenges such as coping with climate change and natural disasters, and the peaceful and sustainable use of the rich ocean."

He acknowledged that climate change "constitutes the very threat to the security and the economic development of all states, including Japan and Pacific island countries."

To cope with it, he said it is necessary to establish a new international framework, which must be fair, effective and participated in by all states.

"Japan, as an island state, intends to materialize concrete assistance through realizing projects one by one, based on the needs of each country, such as introduction of renewable energy, by utilizing Japan's cutting-edge technologies," Suzuki said.

He cited Japan's assistance of $240 million for a three-year period until 2012 to the group of Small Island Developing States that also include most of the Pacific Islands Forum members for the adaptation to climate change and mitigating its effects, as well its support for renewable energy and energy-saving measures.

Through the annual Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting process, which, he said, is Japan's way of partnering with the Pacific countries, foreign ministers of Pacific member states who will attend a meeting in Tokyo and Sendai, northeastern Japan, next month will be able to see how Japan is rebuilding itself from the March 11, 2011 disasters.

"We intend to deepen our discussion towards resolving our common challenges, such as climate change and disaster management. Japan intends to further enhance our role in this region as a 'co-working peer' through tackling these challenges and resolving them together," Suzuki said.