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Japan lobbies for UN seat at Pacific summit

Date Posted: 2006-06-02

A seat on the United Nations Security Council was heavily on Japan’s mind as it hosted the Pacific Island Summit in Okinawa.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi lead the summit, which drew 14 Pacific Rim countries to Nago City for two days of discussions on health care, whaling, economic development, tsunami preparedness and environmental issues. He used the opportunity to press for support for getting Japan a seat on the UN Security Council.

The small island nations hold 14 UN votes, about seven percent of the world body’s total. Koizumi offered Y45 billion in aid to attract the leaders’ attention.

Koizumi’s quest for diplomatic capital comes in the face of China’s offering the same small Asian countries millions of aid dollars over the past several months. China is opposed to Japan’s bid for a UN Security Council seat.

Island nations attending were the Marshall Islands, Palao, Micronesia, Kiribas, Naur, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tsubaru Island, Banuatsu, Cook Islands, Tonga Island, Solomon Islands, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. Japan normally contributes more than Y10 billion annually to these nations, but the hefty increase signals its goal to garner support for Japan interests.

This is the second Pacific Islands Summit hosted by Okinawa. The first was in 2003, only three years after the prefecture hosted world leaders at the G-8 Summit in 2000. Nago’s Bankoku Shinryo Ken Summit Hall was the venue for this year’s event.

Environmental issues, disaster preparedness and early warning systems to alert countries of tsunamis were high on the agenda. Koizumi pledged support to strengthen early warning systems to save human life in the event of earthquake-triggered tsunamis.

The new aid was offered as grants, instead of repayable loans. Koizumi tossed in engineering support for the island countries, promising 4,000 Japanese government employees will begin working within three years to aid in a variety of projects to improve the islanders’ lives. He sought the support of young people, promising to make the World Youth Partnership more viable in offering careers for young people.

The Japanese prime minister also committed to hosting 1,000 high school students studying engineering in home stay or school programs. “Japan is going to support you at no charge,” he told delegates, “without any charges at all. We will send special engineers to support you.” He said environmental health teams will go to the different countries offering new technology in waste treatment techniques, protection of coral, and overall health projects including vaccinations.

Concurrent with the summit was a Island Childrens’ Environmental Summit involving 44 Okinawan youngsters and 28 from the Asia Rim nations. Their press was for improvements in the environment, including protections from rising ocean water temperatures.

Environmental Minister Yuriko Koike worked with the kids on a four-point agenda centered on global warming and waste disposal. A 14-year-old Okinawa girl, Natsuko Nozaki of Kerama Island, questioned “why we have too much of a problem with poisonous starfish.” She asked world leaders to help with the problem and “make it go away.”

Others talked of the fast-warming ocean temperatures and the affect on the islands. Concern about coral reefs, and rising numbers of coral shelves dying because of waste and the warming waters.

Several children called for elimination of plastic shopping bags as a measure to stop environmental pollution.

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