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PALM10: Japan’s extended hand to the Pacific Islands

At the April US-Japan summit, President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed on the necessity of continued engagement with more Indo-Pacific countries, specifically mentioning the Pacific Island countries. Thus, ongoing dialogue between Japan and PICs could not be more timely as Japan prepares to host the triennial PALM10 summit this July 16-18.

Representatives from all 14 Pacific Island nations will attend, alongside Australia and New Caledonia. This year’s summit will also be the first in-person dialogue since PALM9 took place online in 2021 due to Covid-19.

Known formally as the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM), the triennial forum is a first-of-its-kind channel for Japan and each PIC to exchange candid views on high-priority issues. Since its beginning in 1997, PALM has become Japan’s leading forum for strengthening economic and diplomatic ties with the Pacific Islands.

There is ample opportunity for Japan to engage its PALM counterparts and play a part in integrating the PICs in setting the mutually aligned goals of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. Japan’s diplomatic relationship with the PICs started in the late 20th century. The Japanese had occupied the Pacific Islands during World War II and raw materials trading had continued.

Their relations have expanded to be inclusive of non-traditional security concerns including climate change-related projects and Japan’s foreign aid, formally termed Official Development Assistance (ODA). Amid China’s rising influence, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration began exercising closer coordination with the Pacific Islands region under the 2016 Free and Open Indo-Pacific framework.

More recently, Japan was a founding member of the