Japan foreign minister preparing to visit Pacific islands in late March

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Japan has begun preparations for Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to visit the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and the Cook Islands in late March.

The visit, expected to take place from 18 to 22 March, comes after China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands last year, prompting concern from the United States and Australia as China seeks to extend its influence in the region.

Hayashi intends to affirm the three islands states’ cooperation with an “free and open Indo-Pacific”, and is considering suggesting security cooperation as well.

He also plans to assuage concerns over the release of treated water from the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant later this year.

Japan is set to release 1 million tonnes of water which would be filtered to remove most isotopes but would still contain traces of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen hard to separate from water, in a plan that has been deemed safe by regulators but has alarmed some Pacific Island nations.

SOURCE: REUTERS/PACNEWS