PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On July 2nd, 2021, His Excellency David W. Panuelo-President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)-virtually attended the Ninth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM-9). Co-Chaired by the Honorable Yoshihide Suga, Prime Minister of Japan, and the Honorable Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of the Republic of Tuvalu, the triennially-held PALM summits between Japan and Pacific Island Countries (PICs) reflect on historical and contemporary cooperation efforts between Japan and PICs, and develop plans for future efforts.
Of the voluminous and positive outcomes resulting from the PALM-9, one of the most substantial for FSM-Japan relations was Prime Minister Suga’s announcement of an All-Japan effort to build the Japan Pacific Bond (KIZUNA) Policy, which intends to strengthen cooperation between Japan and PICs based on the shared vision for a Free & Open Indo-Pacific. Citizens may recall that the FSM- Japan relationship has frequently been referred to as a Kizuna or Special Bond, which is demonstrated through substantial FSM-Japan blood and marital ties, cooperation ranging from the presence of Japanese Volunteers in Micronesian schools and the development of infrastructure like gymnasiums, to large-scale efforts such as the construction of recycling centers and port expansions. Thus, the announcement of the Japan Pacific Bond (KIZUNA) Policy to strengthen Japan’s cooperation relationship with other PICs is based on the bedrock of the FSM-Japan Kizuna.
“It is exclusively good news to see Japan further its cooperation and development relationships with other [PICs],” President Panuelo said in a statement following the PALM-9. “Japan is a close ally and partner of the FSM, as well as a close ally and partner of our Micronesian brothers and sisters in the Republic of Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Enhanced Japanese cooperation across the Micronesian subregion, and also enhanced Japanese cooperation to our friends south of the equator, will result in positive outcomes for the average person, whether it take the form of a mathematics teacher at their child’s elementary school, the tackling of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing in their country’s waters, or Climate Change adaptation and mitigation projects.”
Japan has committed to multiple priority areas of cooperation with PICs, such as COVID-19 response and recovery, sustainable oceans based on the rule of law, Climate Change and disaster resilience, strengthening the foundation for sustainable and resilient economic development, and people-to-people exchanges and human resource development. In numerical terms, this amounts to 55 billion Yen (approximately five hundred million U.S. dollars/$500,000,000) in financial support to the Pacific, and more than 5,500 people-to-people exchanges over the next three years.
Significant discussion across the Nation—in Government offices, churches, and community meeting houses—has focused on Japan’s efforts to discharge the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) treated water from the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the Pacific Ocean. Citizens will recall that President Panuelo sent a letter to Prime Minister Suga at the end of April expressing his concerns on this effort, and both President Panuelo and Prime Minister Suga spoke at length about this topic during the PALM-9.
Prime Minister Suga assured President Panuelo and other Pacific Island Leaders that the ALPS treated water is purified, and that he would never approve the discharge of polluted water that isn’t ensured by the scientific community as being clean. Noting that 40% of Japan’s tuna is sourced from countries like the FSM, the Prime Minister emphasized that Japan recognizes the importance of maintaining a healthy marine environment. Prime Minister Suga noted that the discharge process will be subject to a review by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure objectivity, and that the results of that review will be shared with the international community.
President Panuelo, in turn, thanked Prime Minister Suga for his sincere response to this important issue. “I want to thank you for the transparency you’ve demonstrated in dealing with this sensitive issue of ALPS treated water,” President Panuelo said. “We appreciate that deeply.”
President Panuelo affirmed his appreciation for Japan’s commitment to providing transparent and in-depth review of the ALPS treated water discharge plan, as well as Japan’s multilateral engagements on the topic, which were requested in his April 2021 letter.
The President, mindful of his June 23 , 2021, promise to both the Honorable Wesley W. Simina, Speaker of the 22nd FSM Congress, and the Honorable Alexander R. Narruhn, Governor of the State of Chuuk, also discussed the topic of World War II-era relics and oil leaks. “In a recent meeting with the Governor of Chuuk State,” President Panuelo said to Prime Minister Suga, “I was informed that two of the ships, two of the relics from World War II, are at high risk of leaking 149,000 liters of oil. If the oil leaks, it will affect the food and environmental security of Fefan Island and other communities in Chuuk State. It’s a potentially significant environmental hazard. Mr. Prime Minister, the FSM does not have the capacity to solve the issue of oil leaks from World War II-era vessels in our waters, and so I respectfully and humbly request the kind assistance from the People and Government of Japan in helping us address this issue at the nearest and most practicable opportunity.”
The PALM-9 ended on a positive note, with President Panuelo and other Pacific Island Leaders, and Prime Minister Suga, adopting both a Leaders Declaration and a Joint Action Plan, both of which will enter the public domain in the coming days and weeks.