TOKYO, Jul 2, 2021, Kyodo. Japan will provide Pacific island nations and territories with 3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from mid-July through the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Friday, Kyodo News Agency reported.
Suga’s announcement came as leaders of Japan and Pacific island nations and territories held an online meeting Friday, with Tokyo aiming to promote its free and open Indo-Pacific initiative in an apparent effort to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
Suga is expected to pledge Japan’s continued cooperation with the island states in such fields as anti-virus measures, maritime security, climate change and economic development at the virtual meeting amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The ninth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting is joined by representatives from Japan, 14 Pacific island nations, Australia and New Zealand, as well as French Polynesia and New Caledonia, both of which belong to France.
The islands carry high strategic importance for Tokyo in both economic and security arenas, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said. China has provided loans and development assistance to projects such as the construction of infrastructure facilities in the region.
Japan is set to call for Pacific islands’ cooperation toward the realization of its free and open Indo-Pacific initiative that advocates democracy, respect for human rights and rules-based order in the region, according to the ministry.
As for measures against the pandemic, Japan is expected to announce the provision of COVID-19 vaccines to the Pacific islands through the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing framework.
Tokyo has hosted the regional summit with the Pacific island nations once every three years since 1997. This year’s meeting was originally scheduled to be held in Shima, a central Japan city, but switched to a virtual setting due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The 14 Pacific island countries are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.