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Mori’s father served in Chuuk during World War II

By Giff Johnson - For Variety

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 28, 2009) –While Japan and Pacific Island government officials opened a trade fair in Tokyo last week as part of the Pacific Leaders Meeting to showcase export products from the region, former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said Japanese ties to the region are deeper than the dollars and cents of aid and trade.

Mori’s father served in the Army in Truk, now known as Chuuk, in Micronesia during World War II. "Despite the painful experience of the war, the Truk islanders treated him kindly," Mori said. "That was the reason that he felt strongly about Truk. My father had a special attachment to the Pacific Islands and I developed my own."

Since chairing the PALM summit in 2000 when he was PM, Mori has championed Pacific issues and called for Japan to teach its younger generation about the longstanding ties with its Pacific neighbors.

Mori, who also chairs the Japan Rugby Association, said it is these ties that underpin relations with the Pacific and color Japanese policy toward the islands. The PALM meeting and expanding aid to the islands "is not just to (get votes to) become a member of the United Nations Security Council," Mori said. "This is not so shortsighted as that."

The historical relationship and family ties between Japan and the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau and other islands in the Pacific is demonstrated by the presence at PALM of FSM President Emanuel Mori, who is related to a branch of the Mori family in Japan.

Former Prime Minister Mori’s remarks Thursday, which departed from his prepared speech, highlighted the opening at the Japan External Trade Organization building of a Pacific Islands Exhibition where most officials talked about the need for small islands to nurture trade opportunities with Japan.

Japan administered the Micronesian region between the two World Wars, and left its mark, a fact repeatedly noted by the former Japanese prime minister.

"I attended the inauguration (of Palau President Johnson Toribiong) in Palau in January," former Prime Minister Mori said. "As I walked trough the crowd, someone called out to me, ‘Mr. Mori, Mr. Mori.’ I didn’t think anyone knew me there. It was an older woman in a wheelchair who turned out to be the mother of the president. She spoke to me in fluent Japanese."

He believes these rich and long-standing ties to the islands should be part of school curriculum in Japan schools. "We should let the children know about this wonderful history and ties to the Pacific islands," he said. "We need to educate the children."

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