Cook Islands Foreign Minister urges global recognition of regional priorities

(L-R) Japan Foreign Minister, Yoko Kamikawa, and Tingika Elikana, Cook Islands’ Foreign Minister (Photo: Pacific Islands Forum/Facebook)

Cook Islands Foreign Affairs Minister, Tingika Elikana, Monday highlighted the need to drive discussions on regional priorities and forge inter-regional cooperation essential for global acknowledgment of these priorities.

He acknowledged the presence of Yoko Kamikawa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan in attending 5th PALM Ministerial interim meeting – a first in the Pacific.

Kamikawa came face-to-face with her Pacific counterparts for the first time after the controversial treated radioactive water release from the Fukushima nuclear power plant on 24 August 2023.

“It is indeed an honour and privilege to have you with us.”

“We welcome the opportunity to meet for the first time at Foreign Minister level in the Pacific Islands. We thank you Minister Kamikawa for your commitment and making this a reality.”

Reflecting on the past two years since PALM9, Elikana highlighted the challenges faced globally.

“PALM9 was held at a time when the Pacific region and indeed the world was grappling with COVID-19 pandemic. The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic has been devastating, and the Pacific is still trying to recover.

“As we continue to recover, and in the context of our 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and our development aspirations, we recognise that genuine partnerships are essential. Indeed, in our ever-changing and unpredictable world, partnerships are now more important than ever before,” he said.

Elikana expressed gratitude for Japan’s role as a longstanding Forum Dialogue Partner.

“We value Japan’s role as a long-standing Forum Dialogue Partner. We also see our PALM partnership as a critical means of strengthening our region’s relationship with Japan.”

He emphasised the need for inter-regional cooperation and acknowledged the significance of the meeting.

“Today, we have the opportunity to advance our dialogue on regional priorities and promote the inter-regional cooperation key to ensuring that these priorities are recognized as globally important.

“This is our first collective engagement for the Pacific Islands Forum at a Ministerial level, with the Government of Japan since the intense bilateral engagements in the region in 2023.”

“Today is an opportunity to both efficiently reflect on PALM9 to ensure that we are meeting the commitments set forth in that meeting and effectively look forward to PALM10, to discuss our vision and priorities for the future,” Elikana said.

He invited the Government of Japan and fellow Ministers to continue strengthening their partnership.

Japan’s foreign affairs minister also addressed the PALM Ministerial Interim Meeting in Suva.

Reflecting on Japan’s history of engagement with Pacific Island countries, Kamikawa said Japan has been the first in the world to establish a forum in 1997 to discuss future visions with the entire Pacific Island countries. The PALM process itself embodies Japan’s support for regional unity, which becomes more important than ever. Indeed, we share the “Blue Pacific Continent.”

She also highlighting the shared vision of the “Blue Pacific Continent”.

“We share the future. Therefore, Japan is committed to working hand in hand with Pacific Island countries for a resilient, sustainable, and stable region.”

“Today, I would like to renew our commitment to work together to address the changing situations and challenges, while cherishing “Kizuna” and its spirit that our PALM has cultivated. I look forward to following up on the major achievements of PALM 9 and having a meaningful discussion for the success of PALM 10,” she said.