Climate change remains Pacific priorities says Forum SG ahead of Korea- Pacific Island Summit


By Pita Ligaiula in Seoul

Climate change remains Pacific priorities despite geopolitical interest and security for the Indo Pacific from global superpowers, says Forum Secretary General Henry Puna.

Pacific island leaders are meeting South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul today for the inaugural Korea – Pacific Summit, as the region seeks stronger action on climate change.

In an interview with Pacific Media on the eve of the Summit in Seoul, Puna said the geopolitical power attention is an opportunity to make their voices heard.

“The short answer is not in any way overshadowing the momentum of the climate change, discussion. Now, priority has always been how we can get the world to listen to our voice and act on these priorities.

“We are navigating a very tricky but opportune space in terms of the geopolitical interest in our region.

“For me, it is an opportunity that we should really be smart about… so this summit is focused on what Korea and Pacific islands can do to address climate change,” Puna told the media in Seoul.

He said its pleasing to see South Korea now engaging with all 18 Pacific countries instead of only a few countries before.

“I think we’re off to a good start. We have a new principle of engagement.

“If you want to do business with some of us engage all of us particularly in meetings, face to face engagements. They accepted that and now we’re here at the highest level.

“This geopolitical competition in our region, It’s good. Let them come.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us to leverage for whatever priorities we want to be respected and to be engaged with and I’m glad that Korea has accepted that principle,” said Puna.

Climate change, security, investment, fisheries, Korea’s bid to host the 2030 World expo in Busan and Japan’s plan to release nuclear waste water into the Pacific Ocean are expected to feature in the summit.

On Sunday President Yoon Suk held a series of bilateral summits with the leaders of five Pacific island nations in Seoul.

Yoon held talks with Kiribati’s President Taneti Maamau, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, James Marape Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni, Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano and Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau.

He is expected to hold more bilateral talks with Pacific leaders today.

The Korea- Pacific summit will be held under the theme “Navigating towards Co-Prosperity: Strengthening Cooperation with the Blue Pacific,” with the participation of leaders and senior officials from all 18 members of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The 18 members are Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Tonga, Palau, Niue, Nauru, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia and New Caledonia.