Foreign Minister Kamikawa Aims to Strengthen Diplomatic Relations with Pacific Island Nations

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, left, with Tingika Elikana, minister of foreign affairs and immigration of Cook Islands in a hotel in the Fijian capital of Suva on Sunday

SUVA — Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa held a series of meetings with officials of Pacific island nations during her visit to the region to attend the ministerial meeting of Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM).

Amid China’s growing presence in the South Pacific, Kamikawa aims to increase Japan’s involvement by expanding the island nations’ needs, such as measures addressing global warming.

In her meeting on Sunday with Tingika Elikana, minister of foreign affairs and immigration of the Cook Islands, Kamikawa called for the need to maintain and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law with China in mind.

The two ministers agreed to work even more closer toward the Tokyo PALM summit scheduled in July.

Kamikawa also met individually with foreign ministers and envoys of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Vanuatu, exchanging opinions on measures against climate change — an area of particular concern for the South Pacific nations as they fear it will impact their living conditions.

Meanwhile, China is expanding its presence in the South Pacific: the Solomon Islands signed a security agreement with China in 2022 and Nauru established diplomatic ties with the country in January this year after severing relations with Taiwan.

Beijing is proactively engaged in infrastructure development in the region, as a Samoan government building that Kamikawa visited on Saturday was built with Chinese assistance.

To counter China’s influence, the United States has also been stepping up its involvement with the island nations, having established diplomatic ties with Cook Islands and Niue.

According to a senior Foreign Ministry official, while the island nations are hopeful about economic assistance from the United States and China, they are also highly cautious of becoming politically divided.

The Yomiuri Shimbun