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11 November 2022

Cook Islands Prime Minister calls on Japan to protect oceans

Wednesday 8 February 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in National, Politics, Regional

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Cook Islands Prime Minister calls on Japan to protect oceans
Pacific Island Forum Secretary General Henry Puna, from left, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands Kitlang Kabua, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands before participating in a high-level meeting in Japan in February. PIF/23020722

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has spoken with the Prime Minister of Japan about his concerns about the plans to dump nuclear discharge into the Ocean.

Brown was part of a High-Level Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Delegation that met in Tokyo with the Prime Minister of Japan, the Honourable Fumio Kishida. 

The Incoming Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum was supported by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Honourable Kitlang Kabua, and the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna.

Brown conveyed the concerns and requests of Pacific Leaders for deferral of Japan’s plans to discharge over a million tonnes of treated nuclear wastewater from Fukushima into the Pacific.

Foreign Minister Kabua emphasised that nuclear contamination continues to be a real and grave threat to the Pacific, one which the Pacific takes seriously and is legally bound to prevent. 

He said the continuing realities of nuclear contamination, and the intergenerational nature and permanent impacts on Marshallese homes and on Marshallese peoples’ health and livelihoods.

Brown, while respecting the decision of Japan, reiterated the PIF’s concern with the implications of such a decision beyond Japan’s maritime space and into the maritime space of other states including PIF states.

Brown emphasised the independent scientific assessments and advice that PIF have undertaken on the data. After extensive work, including exchanges with Japan and IAEA experts, the PIF panel of independent experts advise that the quantity and quality of the data is insufficient and incomplete to support an assessment of safety, and a decision to release the TEPCO tank waters into the Pacific. 

Brown reaffirmed PIF requests for more time and data to enable the PIF independent panel to complete its assessment and provide advice to Forum Leaders on the safety or otherwise of the ocean discharge proposal.

Brown stressed that PIF was seeking a common solution to safeguard the future of the Blue Pacific Ocean and One Blue Planet for all humanity. 

“In this United Nations Decade of the Ocean, Japan can show global leadership in protecting our ocean for generations to come,” Brown said.

“I was particularly pleased to be able to relay in person to PM Kishida our concerns regarding Japan's planned Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS)-treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the Pacific Ocean and to request deferral of Japan's planned discharge until we have a deeper understanding of the implications of the release.”

Brown said he looked forward to working closely with PM Kishida and PIF Leaders leading up to the 10th Japan and Pacific Leaders (PALM) to be held in Japan next year, where he will, together with PM Kishida co-chair the 10th PALM meeting.  

“The PALM agenda has evolved over the years and I welcome PM Kishida's expression of support for PIF regional priorities as expressed in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent which will feature prominently at the 10th PALM," Prime Minister Brown said. 

The PIF Delegation welcomed Prime Minister Kishida’s assurance that Japan will not discharge the treated nuclear wastewater until such time that that it is verifiably safe to do so and based on a relationship built of trust and in the spirit of friendship. Prime Minister Brown emphasised that this matter will be discussed at the upcoming Special Session of PIF Leaders.

Brown congratulated the Government of Japan on its planned announcement of support for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise, recognising the permanency of maritime zones under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Both Leaders looked forward to the PALM 10 meeting in 2024, and to further discussing issues of mutual interests.