Cook Island Prime Minister, the Hon. Mark Brown, and other Government representatives met with Japanese Foreign Minister, the Hon. Yoshimasa Hayashi in Rarotonga on Monday, 20 March 2023.
Foreign Minister Hayashi arrived in Rarotonga on Sunday, 19 March 2023, and departed the Cook Islands on Monday.
During his one-day visit, he was accompanied by Japanese Ambassador to the Cook Islands, His Excellency Koichi Ito, and officials from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japanese Embassy in Wellington.
During bilateral discussions, Prime Minister Brown and Minister Hayashi discussed priority areas related to the Cook Islands’ national interests, including climate change, water resilience, the need to support coastal protection in the Pa Enua (Outer Islands), as well as the importance of the Pacific Island Leaders Meeting (PALM) and the PALM process in promoting cooperation and the preservation of friendly relations.
“I was pleased to be able to discuss Cook Islands national priorities, and express appreciation for Japan’s ongoing support to the Cook Islands’ development, including through its unique economic and social development programmes,” said Prime Minister Brown.
“This has enabled community-driven development in health, education, community-based fisheries, agriculture, and renewable energy on Rarotonga and the Pa Enua for over a decade. Japan’s support directly impacts the livelihood of our people, and these programmes are highly regarded by our communities.”
Prime Minister Brown also echoed the concerns of the Cook Islands and the wider Pacific family as current Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, for a nuclear free and independent Pacific; referencing the signing of the 1985 Rarotonga treaty for a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNZ).
"As the current Pacific Islands Forum Chair, the Cook Islands continues to advocate for the 2050 Blue Pacific strategy as the unifying narrative for the regional community as endorsed by Pacific Leaders in June 2022. This defines a Pacific islands region with its own priorities and purposes," Prime Minister Brown said.
"As parents of the Rarotonga Treaty, a legacy the Cook Islands is very proud of, the AUKUS announcement is cause for deep reflection as we endeavour to secure the future security and prosperity of the people of the Blue Pacific."
Minister Hayashi’s visit follows earlier talks held in Japan in February to relay the Cook Islands’ and Pacific Islands Forum concerns regarding Japan’s planned discharge of Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) - treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the Pacific Ocean, and to request a deferral of Japan’s planned discharge until there is a deeper understanding of the implications of the release.
Prime Minister Brown welcomed Japan's commitment to intensify dialogue on the issue and Prime Minister Fumio Kashida's resolute assurance that Japan will never allow the discharge that is not confirmed safe.
Prime Minister Brown also welcomed Japan’s engagement in the region as a dialogue partner since 1989, with PM Brown participating in PALM9 held virtually for the first time in 2021, and saying he was pleased with the commitment and follow through by Japan made at that meeting and that he looks forward to a successful PALM10.
The Cook Islands and Japan established diplomatic relations in June 2011, with both countries engaging in high-level interactions regularly. Japan’s Ambassador Ito was the first diplomatic envoy to visit the Cook Islands after its initial border reopening in 2021; and was able to attend the national constitution celebrations as well as co-host a joint reception.
On Monday, Minister Hayashi also met with representatives of civil society and community leaders and visited the Rarotonga Hospital and Teimurimotia Fire Station.
Prime Minister Brown said that the Cook Islands places great importance on its relations with Japan, with Minister Hayashi’s visit a milestone in the relationship between both countries.