By Alfred Sasako
PRIME Minister Rick Houenipwela is off on a 15-day, two-nation tour next week, taking in Japan and later Taiwan.
Senior officials have confirmed the trip, saying Mr Houenipwela is attending the Summit-level meeting called Pacific Islands Leaders’ Meeting (PALM), which Japan hosts every three years.
Prime Minister Hou is expected to be briefed in Honiara today on issues being discussed at the meeting which Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture is hosting from May 18-19.
The size of the Prime Minister’s delegation is not known.
However, officials say the trip would take at least 15 days. He will visit Taiwan on his way back from the PALM in Japan.
Leaders from 17 Pacific Island Countries, including Australia and New Zealand are attending. “We are Islanders – Partnership Towards Prosperous, Free and Open Pacific” is the theme chosen for the two-day meeting.
The meeting will be co-chaired by Mr Takeo Mori, Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Ms Peseta Noumea Simi, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Samoa.
Held for the first time in 1997, PALM provides a platform where leaders can exchange views on various issues and common challenges facing Pacific island countries and the Region.
In its 40-year history, PALM Leaders have openly discussed various issues such as the challenges regarding their small size and land distribution over a wide area, distance from major international markets, and the vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change.
Leaders from 17 countries including Japan are taking part in this year’s PALM. The other countries are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
In Taiwan, Prime Minister Hou will sign a formal agreement, sealing Taipei’s formal assistance towards the 2023 South Pacific Games.