This past weekend, I hosted the Sixth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 6) in the city of Nago in Okinawa. The venue was the Bankoku Shinryokan, the same venue as the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit in 2000. For me personally, this was my third trip to Okinawa since the beginning of 2012. I am very glad that this diplomatic event, a major one for Japan in which the heads of state and government of 13 Pacific nations come together once every three years, concluded successfully.
As the departing leaders one after another got into leading-edge electric cars made in Japan that had been arranged specially for this meeting, they each expressed an appreciation of Okinawa's beautiful blue sea and their thanks for the warm spirit of hospitality shown to them there. I would also like to thank the people of the host site, Okinawa, including those involved in an exchange among high school students that took place on Miyakojima and other such events, for their many efforts.
Having concluded this summit, I am newly filled with deep emotion at the fact that "Japan is an island nation."
In the past, there may have been an image of an island nation being closed and self-righteous, as symbolized in the expression "island mentality." However, Japan as a 21st century maritime state is overflowing with new kinds of potential particularly because it is an "island nation" in the Pacific.
I have said this on numerous occasions, but while Japan is a small country ranking 60th in the world based on landmass, when we include the size of its seas, it becomes the sixth largest nation in the world. If we consider it in terms of cubic volume, Japan becomes a major player as the 4th largest in the world.
At this summit, we reconfirmed that cooperation between Japan and the other countries that share the Pacific Ocean is essential in order to make the greatest possible use of the blessings granted to us by this ocean.
For example, there are marine resources that are delicacies of the sea.
Approximately 80% of bonito and tuna are caught in the Pacific region. Cooperation with the other countries sharing the Pacific Ocean will be critical in continuing fishing industry activities in a sustainable way.
In addition, Pacific islands share in common the Achilles' heel of being vulnerable to natural disasters. At the summit, I proposed the development of an early warning system and the establishment of an insurance system. The other leaders highly appreciated these, expressing great expectations towards the sharing of such "knowledge from living in an island nation."
If you have the opportunity, take a good look on a map at the countries out in the Pacific. The vast ocean is studded with tiny islands. How is it that humankind's distant ancestors somehow found their way to these places thousands of kilometers from any continents, then settled and developed communities there?
Each of these countries clearly had pioneers who truly opened up "frontiers" in steering their boats towards destinations they could not see. Surely what we should share with the countries of the Pacific is this matchless pioneer spirit.
At the dinner banquet that was held, the leaders of the Pacific island countries and I shared some drinks together and together danced to traditional Okinawan folk songs. I feel that we succeeded in connecting with each other.
In fact dancing had not been planned for the banquet, and in fact it was all I could do to dance, being terribly embarrassed. But perhaps the fact that I was able to share such an exuberant experience with the leaders and their spouses is because there is something that island people share in common that resonated within us somehow.
In diplomacy between one nation and another, various kinds of behavior is required in accordance with the situation at hand. I feel that I learned something about the depth of that fact.
It is certain that our relations with Pacific nations in the present day are characterized by a kind of strategic meaning. Yet what supports those relations is nothing less than a relationship of trust among us as friends who share the Pacific.
There is no doubt that this summit served as a forum for deepening the relations among the leaders of our countries.
This week again holds in store for me a variety of policy issues and political engagements. There is no clever means to get around them. The only thing to do is to tackle them head on.