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PM Brown off to Japan on Fukushima Forum mission

Monday 6 February 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in National, Politics

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PM Brown off to Japan on  Fukushima Forum mission
An aerial photo shows Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture in January 2021. Picture: KOTA ENDO

Prime Minister Mark Brown will meet Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo next week in his first mission as part of the Pacific Islands Forum ‘troika’ of leaders, and incoming Chair of the Forum.

PM Brown will speak to a range of issues, but primarily, his visit to Japan will focus on conveying the concerns and requests of Pacific leaders, for the deferral of Japan’s planned discharge of treated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean, a statement from the Foreign Affairs ministry said.

The Cook Islands, alongside members of the Forum, China, South Korea and Chile, amongst others, continue to call for a deferral of Japan’s planned release until adequate and accurate scientific data support Japan’s assertion of safety.

The three-day mission will be the first for Brown as part of the Forum troika and ahead of the Cook Islands hosting of the Forum meeting later this year. Amongst the topical priorities facing Pacific Leaders in their meetings are Japan’s plans for the discharge of nuclear wastewater from the Fukushima plant into the Pacific Ocean over the coming years.

PM Brown said: “I echo the concerns conveyed by the Forum through Chair, Prime Minister (Sitiveni) Rabuka of Fiji to the Government of Japan – our primary concern is the potential risks that the Fukushima discharge will have on our ocean health and livelihoods, given our people depend on the Ocean for survival.”

“Our Pacific people have a shared history in relation to nuclear weapons and we continue to carry the permanent impacts and scars of nuclear contamination from our nuclear testing legacy; a legacy for which a just resolution for our Pacific people remains evasive to this day.”

Amongst a range of engagements in Japan, Brown will be joined by Minister Kitaling Kabua of the Marshall Islands and the Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat Henry Puna, the former Cook Islands PM, for meetings with Japan’s Foreign Affairs, and Trade Ministers. The delegation will meet with PM Kishida on Wednesday. There will also be engagements with the Pacific diplomatic corps in Tokyo, and the independent nuclear experts who have been a key part of the discussions between Japan, TEPCO, and the Pacific.

“Like our neighbours in the Pacific, we in the Cook Islands are aware of the lessons of our history as a nuclear testing ground.  Our Ocean is global, a collective resource we share and as shared by partners at the recent Pacific Tuna Commission sessions, we have real concerns about the impacts of the planned discharge for our fisheries,” Brown said.

“Japan has a long history of partnership and cooperation with the Forum and the people of the Pacific as detailed in Japan’s Pacific Bonds (Kizuna) Policy. Much is at stake in respect of the Fukushima issue.  There is no substitute for meeting face to face, and I look forward to meeting with PM Kishida next week.”