Japan and NZ have finally agreed to cooperate in supporting Pacific Island Countries, especially their maritime security. This is big news if you know the modern history of Pacific.
My friend asked me why Japan doesn't supported the PICs by herself? That is a great question and the key to understanding PIC's politics.
Let me present an overview of the modern history of the Pacific.
European colonization of the Pacific started in 16th century and by the 19th century most Pacific Islands had been colonized. In the late 1800s Japanese merchants and fishermen expanded into the Pacific. This occurred after Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853 opened Japan to the outside with gun boast diplomacy. The two victories of Japan over China in 1895 and Russia in 1905 led to the European powers seeing them as a threat. Japan became a hypothetical enemy for the United States, New Zealand and Australia.
Although the Japanese Imperial Navy protected both New Zealand and Australia under the Japan-Anglo alliance during WWI, this historical fact has been forgotten by many in those countries. Worse still, Australia pushed their "White Australian Policy" which led to the expulsion of Japanese immigrants from their land as well as Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Islands.
The evacuation of Japanese from the Pacific Ocean was a geopolitical strategy of Australia, New Zealand and the United States. To this effect it was a success by the victory of WWII. Japan subsequently lost their mandated territories in the Pacific. Japanese fishing boats were later expelled from the Pacific in the 1970s which was a direct results of New Zealand and Australia push towards the independence of Pacific Islands and obtain jurisdictional right of huge EEZ under discussion of the Law of the Sea. Prior to this the Japanese fishing boats enjoyed the freedom of ocean.
So, yes the Pacific Islands are backyard of the United States, Australia and New Zealand. This is the status quo that I have experiences after working in this region over the last 30 years. Let me give you one example. One of my first successful projects was USPNet. I spent 80% of my time and energy in discussions with metropolitan powers, i.e. Australia, New Zealand, United States and United Kingdom, rather than Pacific Islands.
The approach of Minister Taro Kono of Japan with New Zealand is absolutely right. Japan has to work with New Zealand, Australia and the United States (England, France etc.) towards the Pacific Islands which is their backyard.