- By Bernadette H. Carreon, Pacific Note
A security issue--the North Korean nuclear threat--steals focus of this year’s Pacific Islands Forum
Apia, Samoa- The 48th annual Pacific Islands Forum is convening in Samoa, bringing together 18 leaders of the Pacific for political discussions centering on the theme: The Blue Pacific: Our Sea of Islands-Our Security through sustainable development, management and conservation.
But North Korea's testing of what may have been a hydrogen bomb appears likely to shift the focus from ocean conservation and climate change to immediate security concerns.
Forum Secretary-General Meg Taylor said security issues were first raised during the recent meeting of Forum Foreign Ministers in August, amid the threat of North Korea to Guam, which is also seen as a threat to the wider Pacific region.
“As a regional grouping I think we are ill prepared and we can’t be prepared because we haven’t got the resources or the means of militarization,” Taylor told reporters.
Taylor however said the bigger countries, which are members of the forum, are monitoring the situation very closely.
Palau and U.S. are in discussions of a radar system installation in the island nation given the North Korea threats in Guam.
This year’s forum from September 4th to the 8th, is hosted by Samoa; its prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, told Pacific journalists on hand that the focus is to ensure that the region manages its fisheries and protects the ocean from exploitation through conservation and effective surveillance.
“For the Pacific region and its island countries, the ocean is crucial," Prime Minister Malielegaoi said. "Exercising a sense of common identity and purpose linked to the ocean has been critical for protecting and promoting the potential of our shared Pacific Ocean. It is this commonality of the fundamental essence of the region which has the potential to empower the region through collective and combined agendas and actions,” Malielegaoi said in remarks during a Pacific Islands News Association media workshop.
Malielegaoi said the forum members should act collectively to manage its ocean resources.
Also on the agenda of the forum leaders will be climate change preceding the Bonn 2017 UN climate change conference in Germany in November, which will be co-chaired by one of the forum member-countries, Fiji.
The forum starts on September 4 with the small Island stated leaders meeting.
Palau which is a forum member has sent a delegation led by Vice President Raynold Oilouch. Oilouch said the theme, Blue Pacific, is in line with Palau’s ocean conservation efforts.“Oceans are a very critical component and surveillance of our jurisdictions,” Oilouch said.
Oilouch as head of Palau delegation, will sit in the Maritime Domain Awareness dialogues panel set on Thursday by the forum.
The Forum is comprised of members: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu French Polynesia and New Caledonia.
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