COOKS’ PM PUNA TO CO-CHAIR SIXTH JAPAN SUMMIT

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COOKS’ PM PUNA TO CO-CHAIR SIXTH JAPAN SUMMIT PALM to be held in Okinawa this May

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, March 21, 2012) –Prime Minister Henry Puna will co-chair the sixth Pacific Island Leaders Meeting (PALM) alongside Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in May.

Customarily the chair of the Pacific Islands Forum – which this year is New Zealand – will co-chair PALM with the Japanese prime minister. This year, however, the Cook Islands has been afforded that opportunity.

"(Given) that the subject of the PALM is primarily between Japan and Pacific Island leaders, the prime minister of New Zealand kindly indicated that he would be willing for the Cook Islands prime minister as the incoming chair of the Forum to co-chair with the prime minister of Japan the next PALM, to be held in Okinawa, Japan, in May," foreign affairs secretary Jim Gosselin said.

"As this was ultimately a decision for Forum leaders to make, those leaders were all consulted and there was unanimous agreement that the Cook Islands prime minister co-chair the PALM."

PALM is a summit-level meeting, which has been held on a three-yearly basis since 1997.

This year’s meeting will bring together leaders from Japan, the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand.

It will be held in Nago City in Okinawa, Japan’s most southernmost island, on May 25 and 26.

The objective of PALM is for Japan to forge closer ties with its Pacific partners, and on this year’s agenda are discussion of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

Reflective of its overarching goal is PALM’s slogan, which is "We are islanders – for growing ‘kizuna’ in the Pacific". (Kizuna is a Japanese word meaning ‘bond’.)

The Japanese government has also designed a logo to represent all things PALM. The logo features the colour blue to represent the Pacific Ocean, and a rainbow to represent a bridge between Japan and Pacific Islands countries. Standing by a palm tree is a figure called ‘Iisa-kun’, a mascot figure of Okinawa who is modeled on ‘Shisa’, a lion-shaped ornament paramount to Okinawan mythology.

Iisa-kun’s chest bears a sun, which is symbolic of the warm climate of Okinawa, and in place of his tail is the bitter melon ‘goya’, a popular Okinawan vegetable.

The Cook Islands established diplomatic relations with Japan in mid-2011.

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