Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Sunday, May 8, 2022, 12:40 p.m. Palau
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am visiting the Pacific Island countries of Fiji and Palau as the first Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs in three years. Pacific Island countries are long-standing friendly nations to Japan and this region is extremely important strategically to ensure regional peace and stability. Although this was a short visit, I had a very meaningful discussions with the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Bainimarama of Fiji and Secretary-General Puna of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat yesterday, as well as with President Whipps and Minister of State Aitaro of Palau today.
During all the meetings, we shared recognition of the importance of solidarity among countries that share fundamental values while the very foundation of the international community is being undermined by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. We also had in-depth discussions on various situations surrounding Pacific Island countries as well as on the approach to future cooperation between Japan and Pacific Island countries. It was encouraging to see how Japan’s support and ways of engagement toward the region, including what has been promoted under the initiative of the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM), are appreciated by the countries as ideal.
In regard to regional affairs, firstly North Korea has been increasing its nuclear and missile activities, including the successive ballistic missile launches on May 4 and 7 toward the Sea of Japan. I strongly condemned such activities that violate the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and confirmed continued cooperation in responding to North Korea, including the nuclear and missiles issue and the abductions issue.
In addition, we discussed security issues surrounding the Pacific Islands. Concerning the security cooperation agreement between China and Solomon Islands, I expressed Japan’s concerns based on our recognition that the issue could affect the regional security environment significantly. In response, the Pacific Island countries indicated that they share the same recognition and we affirmed continued close cooperation with relevant countries.
Just before this, I attended the completion ceremony of Palau International Airport. We expect that the new terminal of the airport, which was constructed through cooperation between Japan and Palau, will contribute not only to developing Palau’s economy and society but also to improving regional connectivity. In that sense, we can say that this is truly a symbolic project toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” in the Pacific Islands region. Japan will continue to provide support leveraging our strengths, including quality infrastructure, to Pacific Island countries in cooperation with like-minded countries such as the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
Lastly, through this visit, I felt that Pacific Island countries are special friends to Japan connected by the Pacific Ocean, that Japan’s support is effectively utilized, and that the countries are overcoming and strongly recovering from the effects of the novel coronavirus. For Pacific Island countries to overcome accumulated issues including the impact of the novel coronavirus, the effects of climate change and natural disasters, and fragile infrastructure, Japan will cooperate as much as possible to further strengthen our bonds with Pacific Island countries, our irreplaceable partners. That is all from me.
Reporter: I believe that the United States also has a major interest in the region you have visited this time. Based on this visit, how will Japan and the United States deepen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and Pacific Island countries?
Minister Hayashi: The strategic environment of the Indo-Pacific region is growing increasingly severe. With regards to efforts to ensure the stability and prosperity of Pacific Island countries, it is increasingly necessary to respond from an even more strategic perspective. Based on this perspective, I believe it is even more important to have close cooperation with like-minded countries including the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
The United States announced its “Indo-Pacific Strategy” in February 2022 and has indicated its policy to strengthen its engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, including Pacific Island countries. Through my visits to Fiji and Palau, I renewed my recognition of the various issues faced by Pacific Island countries. I would like Japan to continue to work together with like-minded countries, including the United States, to extensively promote specific cooperation toward sustainable development of Pacific Island countries, including the improvement of infrastructure, and toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”