PALM and Fiji
At the last PALM in 2012, according to a Fiji Newspaper, the Japanese government did not invite Bainimarama, instead they invited the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke. This news article also mentioned that this was a result of pressure from the Australian government to Japan, with Fiji deciding not to send a delegate.
Now that Fiji has had an election last September and have a democratic government, everybody, especially Australia, thought that Fiji would come back to PIF, but they did not. As such, what will be happen with the next PALM later this year which is co-organized with PIF?
I found an interview in an article with the Fijian Ambassador to Japan.
Focus: What Palm Summit Means To Fiji
He clearly mentioned that:
“Fiji’s attendance at PALM7 is not a foregone conclusion. Fiji will have to be invited first.”
I fully understand and support the Ambassador’s comment. In some sense Japan made Fiji’s lose face in the past, however, does the next comment on Japan by the Ambassador tell us a different message to Japan?
“Japan did not terminate its diplomatic relations with Fiji following the change in government in Fiji in late 2006. This was in sharp contrasts to other countries, which suspended diplomatic relations with Fiji.
This was a sign of maturity in Japanese diplomacy because they kept the door open for dialogue with Fiji – which was essential in promoting understanding during those difficult days. The first few years 2007-2012, were difficult years in Fiji – Japan bilateral relations. Since the Japanese Parliamentary Election in December 2012, the new Japanese Government has been more willing to engage with Fiji.”
Japan should invite Fiji no matter if Fiji is a member of PIF or not. I would like to recommend that both Japan and the PIF Chair – i.e the co-chair of next PALM, the Japanese PM Abe, and Palau President Remengesau, send an invitation letter to Fiji. This is the way to allow Fiji to keep face.
PIF was established by Fiji to prior the Island nations voice, and in this sense Fiji should be treated special.
I would like to share the background of Micronesia’s sub-regional movement. There are many reasons, but one of them was that the Micronesian leaders were sick of the hegemony of Australia and NZ in PIF.
Last not but least, I would like to answer Ambassador questioned about the US presence in PALM.
I made a suggestion to Gaimusho to include US in last PALM, why?
1. North Pacific is US backyard. Micronesian countries have a strong relationship with US – Free Association.
2. US has the largest EEZ in the world and more than 50% of them are located in the Pacific Ocean.
3. I respect Australia and NZ’s efforts, but the US and Japan is the first and third largest economies in the world could do more for Pacific Islands along with Aust, and NZ.
4. As the result Japan-US cooperation for the Pacific will lead to a new direction of the Japan-US alliance.