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Japan and Pacific island countries on Saturday called on North Korea to take concrete actions toward denuclearisation by complying with UN sanctions over its nuclear and missile development, as they wrapped up a two-day summit meeting in northeastern Japan.
In the joint declaration released after the gathering in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and leaders from 14 Pacific island countries expressed deep concerns over the North evading international sanctions by transferring cargoes at sea.
It is the first time for Japan and the Pacific island countries to mention the North Korean issue in their declaration. Japan has hosted a regional summit with the Pacific island nations every three years since 1997.
The participants at the eight Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting also noted the importance of the complete, verifiable and irreversible scrapping of all of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, while stressing the need of an immediate resolution of the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
The declaration also touched on the importance of the maritime order based on the rule of law and welcomed the "free and open Indo-Pacific strategy," a policy the Abe administration has pushed ahead with in an apparent effort to counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China.
In a keynote speech at the outset of the summit, Abe pledged to support Pacific island countries in enhancing their maritime security capabilities, given their vulnerable coastal security.
"Japan will be unstinting in its assistance toward improving countries' capacity to 'protect the sea,' including each country's legal enforcement capabilities," Abe said.
"It is the rule of law that gives protection to the nations, big and small, for their inherent rights," he said.
"Safeguarding the sea and safeguarding the planet and humankind are one and the same. My country will continue to make efforts with you all," Abe added.
The summit also focused on building infrastructure, including ports.
To support their sustainable development, Abe promised continued assistance to the island nations to protect the environment and cope with climate change.
Abe also vowed Japan's engagement in human resource development and people-to-people exchanges involving 4,000 people over the next three years.
The forum brings together Japan, the 14 Pacific island nations, Australia and New Zealand, as well as French Polynesia and New Caledonia, both of which are French territories.
The 14 Pacific island countries are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The previous meeting also took place in Iwaki, an area in northeastern Japan devastated by the massive 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi co-chaired the meeting with Abe.
SOURCE: KYODO NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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