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by Suzie Naisara-Grey

TOKYO, Japan (Oct. 9, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---Japan wants to focus on environmental issues crucial for the Pacific Islands in next year's Japan-Pacific Islands leaders summit, known as PALM 2003.

Japan's Foreign Minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi, and the Pacific Islands Forum chairperson, Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, met last night in Tokyo and discussed arrangements.

Kawaguchi said Japan would like to pursue climate change and waste management talks with Forum island countries.

The focus on climate change would be in an effort to convince other developed nations to take the same steps Japan has.

This includes the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the global effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change, including sea level rise.

Kawaguchi told Qarase that Japan would like to see the PALM (Pacific Island Leaders Meeting) 2003 promote and encourage international action on climate change.

The meeting between the two came as Qarase continued his series of talks with Japanese leaders on a visit at the invitation of the Japanese Government. Qarase is accompanied by Pacific Islands Forum Deputy Secretary-General Iosefa Maiava and Fiji officials.

Kawaguchi assured Qarase that the Japanese stand on climate change is very strong. And as one of the region's biggest aid and technical assistance donors, she said, Japan would look into helping the Pacific Islands confront such issues by:

"Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol is absolutely essential for all countries rather than some," Kawaguchi said. "Global warming is slowly affecting the weather pattern of our countries and we must take heed of its effects."

PALM 2003 is expected to be held on the subtropical Japanese island of Okinawa, where many Pacific Islanders have undergone training and education. It follows PALM 2000, which was held in Miyazaki, southern Japan.

Qarase -- who has taken a strong stance on environmental issues in recent international forums -- said common problems among Forum island countries are "environment related."

These include the conservation of resources such as mangroves and coral reefs, along with issues like waste management and climate change, he said.

Qarase urged Japan to look into strengthening the human resources of Forum countries to assist their ability to deal with climate change and related areas.

"Climate change is dear to our hearts in the region and the Pacific Island Forum countries are grateful that Japan is continuing to have a high level of representation in Post-Forum Dialogues," Qarase said.

Qarase, meanwhile, earlier yesterday told NHK Television that "Japan has taken a lead role with the Kyoto Protocol."

He said he was sure that it would move to influence others who are yet to ratify it, adding that "the lives of Pacific Islanders are changing through global warming with the effects trickling to the economy and the ordinary lives of people.

"There is enough strong evidence around with the abnormal high tides or tidal rises, floodings and the fair share of cyclone devastations that the islands have been experiencing. Tidal activity now sees the sea level rising with villages experiencing levels reaching areas that they do not normally reach.

"And the occurrence and impact of cyclones on our economy where homes are destroyed, costing thousands of dollars worth of damage in addition to the loss of sources of income of to the people, are examples of how global warming affects the economies."

Qarase added that all Forum countries would also appreciate Japanese advances in renewable sources of energy for power, plus assistance in desalinating salt water for use by their islands.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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