Opening Statement by Mr. Shozo Azuma
State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan
at the 11th Post-Forum Dialogue
The Republic of Palau
7 October 1999

Ministerial Colleagues,

I am greatly honoured to be given this opportunity to make the opening statement on the occasion of the 11th Post-Forum Dialogue. First of all, I would like to express, on behalf of the Japanese delegation, our sincere gratitude for the care and hospitality that the Government of the Republic of Palau and the Forum Secretariat have extended to us and our deep appreciation for the excellent arrangements for this Dialogue.

Japan and the Pacific island countries have long lived side-by-side, nurtured in the same cradle of the Pacific Ocean. We are, and we will always be, neighbours, sharing a common destiny. Japan and the Pacific island countries, as close as we are, will act as partners, helping each other for our prosperity, deepening our mutual understanding through frank exchanges of views, and joining our voices to make our views and concerns recognized by the rest of the international community.

Japan and the Pacific island countries share the same concerns on a variety of global problems, including environmental and development issues, and have joined forces to tackle them in the international arena. We greatly appreciate the support that you have extended to Japan on various occasions.

This September, three of the SPF members -- Kiribati, Nauru and Tonga -- joined the United Nations. As this event shows, more Pacific island countries have come to play an important role in the international community, which is quite encouraging for Japan.

Japan attaches great importance to our cooperation with the SPF, which we see as the focal point of our relations with the Pacific island countries. The SPF, as we appreciate, has played a vital role in promoting peace and prosperity of the Pacific region, and in assisting the Pacific island countries to increase their say in the international community. Japan is committed to eagerly continuing our cooperation with the SPF at all levels, including our financial contribution to SPF-sponsored projects.

We recognize that it is important for the Pacific island countries to preserve and develop your beautiful nature and traditions, to overcome the elements of vulnerability that have plagued especially the small island countries, and to manifest your ownership and sense of primary responsibility in pursuing your development policies. We are willing to do what we can to assist the Pacific island countries in a spirit of partnership. This view is in line with what Japan has been putting forward, in such fora as the United Nations, as "a New Development Strategy." It is also linked to the idea of sustainable development, which was the core theme of this year's UN Special Session on Small Island Developing States.

On this basis, Japan intends to actively assist the Pacific island countries' efforts in such areas as capacity building, industrial and economic infrastructure, development of the private sector, and basic human needs. We believe that the South Pacific General Exhibition, which was co-sponsored by the SPF Secretariat, the Pacific Island Centre, has greatly contributed to the development of the private sector in these countries.

I understand that this year's Forum, taking into account the outcome of the Forum Economic Ministers' Meeting, the Forum Trade Ministers' Meeting, the Forum Aviation Ministers' Meeting, and the Forum Communication Ministers' Meeting, reconfirmed the Forum members' continued commitment to pursue economic reforms. I also learnt that the leaders had endorsed the commencement of the process aimed at establishing an intra-region free trade area, and the necessity for the members to further coordinate their policies at the regional level. Japan highly appreciates such initiatives on the part of the Pacific island countries and is prepared to do what we can to support them.

Japan intends to further develop the constructive and friendly relationship with the Pacific island countries, building upon what has been achieved since the first Japan-SPF Summit Meeting in October 1997. Recalling paragraph 53 of this year's Forum Communique, we are exploring the possibility of convening a second Japan-SPF Summit Meeting in Japan sometimes next spring. If this is going to be the case, we would like to have your active participation in the meeting and your kind cooperation.
What we have in mind at this moment is to have our leaders engage in frank and active discussions on ways to promote cooperation between Japan and the Pacific island countries, and on such global and regional issues that are of our common concern. This meeting might also provide Japan with a timely opportunity to exchange our views with the Pacific island countries, in the process of preparing for the successful Kyushu-Okinawa Summit scheduled for July next year..

I look forward to engaging in fruitful discussions in this Dialogue

Thank you.

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