Pacific takes climate change, Covid-19 messages to Korea summit
Pacific Islands Forum leaders are driving new global momentum for climate change, Covid-19 crisis and other collective priorities for the region in South Korea this week, off the back of meetings with New Zealand, Australia, India and the United States. The third India-Pacific Cooperation meeting was held in Papua New Guinea last week, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attending in place of President Joe Biden. Blinken signed key strategic agreements with some Pacific nations, including a defence pact with PNG. Forum leaders met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul for the Korea-Pacific Islands Summit on Monday. READ MORE: * Pacific leaders adopt UN resolution, warn global climate crisis - not China - remains biggest threat to island nations * US signs new security pact with Papua New Guinea amid competition with China * US-PNG defence pact pushes ahead as Biden eyes new Pacific summit * Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta to visit Samoa alongside UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said she was eager to discuss climate change, economic recovery from the Covid pandemic, development co-operation, oceans and fisheries and sea-level rise. Aotearoa New Zealand is joining with other Pacific Island Forum Leaders attending the summit so that our voice can be heard, as we speak as one as Pacific whanau on our shared Pacific priorities, she said. Mahuta will meet with her Korean counterpart Park Jin and will deliver a national statement on Preserving maritime zones in the face of climate change related sea-level rise. She will also host an event for Aotearoa and Korean businesses to build connections and promote New Zealand's brand in Korea, which is our fifth largest trading partner. In Busan, Mahuta will lay a wreath for the 34 Kiwi soldiers who fought during the Korean War and are buried at the United Nations Memorial and Cemetery. She will also visit soldiers serving in the Demilitarised Zone on the border between North and South Korea. This year marks 70 years since the signing of the Armistice in Korea that brought the fighting to an end. These moments of reflection encourage us all to focus on the need for peace. Building strong relationships between nations is a key to that, Mahuta said. Summit discussions include South Koreas pledge to double aid to the Pacific, with President Yoon opting for a more neutral stance on the release of treated wastewater from Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactor this year, his office said in a statement. The Seoul summit theme is Navigating towards Co-Prosperity: Strengthening co-operation with the Blue Pacific and is co-hosted by Koreas Foreign Affairs and Oceans and Fisheries ministries. Forum secretary-general Henry Puna said the Seoul summit provided unprecedented momentum for global awareness and engagement on regional and national priorities. Puna welcomed the massive boost for recognition of our priorities, and our vision for the Blue Pacific Continent, endorsed by Forum leaders as the blueprint for Pacific regionalism for the next three decades. The 2050 Strategy encapsulates how we can best work together to achieve our shared vision and aspirations, and when it comes to partnerships with the rest of the world, our leaders have been very clear that all who come to the Forum table must come to strengthen regional solidarity, not undermine it, Puna said. Stephen Howes, director of the Development Policy Centre and professor of economics at The Australian National University, said if Korea wanted to be taken seriously as a Pacific development partner, it needed to stop looking only to Asia for its labour needs, and open its Employment Permit Scheme to the Pacific Islands region. The Seoul summit is the perfect opportunity for President Yoon to deliver this outcome, Howes said. Since the forum island leaders conference in Fiji in July 2022, there had been an unprecedented schedule of high-level visits from Forum Dialogue Partners keen to demonstrate inclusive, enduring partnerships that recognise the collective strength of our Blue Pacific, Puna said. Forum leaders see this as vital to addressing the challenges facing the Blue Planet, to planning and owning our development agenda, and to deepened climate resilience, he said. Leaders also attended the World Climate Expo, featuring Pacific speakers, and the Busan World Expo, a key feature of Koreas bid for the 2030 World Expo.