The New Relations between the Pacific Island Nations and Japan in the Age of Globalization

5.Japanese Experience in the Pacific
(1) A View from Japonesia

Japan has many things common to other island nations in the Pacific. It consists of about 7,000 islands which extend in an arc of some 3,000 kilometers northeast to southwest. Total land area is a little more than 378,000 km2, nearly 1.5 times the land area of the United Kingdom. It should be compared to that of Papua New Guinea (462,000km2) or of Fiji (18,000km2) and of Samoa (3,000km2). Because of insularity common to Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia, some Japanese writers (such as SHIMAO Toshio) wittily and wittingly call their own country as Japonesia. Origins of Japanese people (nihon-jin) are difficult to be established exactly, but it is commonly believed that they can be traced back at least partly to immigrant population from insular south. Significantly, in certain specialized areas of vocabulary, particularly for words that have to do with marine life, similarity exists between Japanese and Malayo-Polynesian languages.(*9) The folk beliefs in historical connections with the southern islands found a poetic expression in a famous song "yashino-mi" (a coconut) written by SHIMAZAKI Toson (1872--1943) in which the poet spoke of a coconut drifted from afar on to the shore of Japan.

It was apparently the Kuroshio (the Japan Current) that brought Shimazaki's coconut over from an unknown island in the midst of the ocean to Japanese shore. The same strong current prevented, however, the Japanese seafarers in old days from sai1ing across the great ocean and as a result the Japanese and other island people in the Pacific continued to live for many centuries without mutual contact. Japanese could obtain dim glimpses of Pacific Islands through hearsay by returned shipwrecked sailors and fishermen. Even that scant information was strictly controlled under the seclusion policy of Tokugawa Japan. A change was brought about in the middle of the 19th century when the Japanese learned modern navigation from the European sailors. By that time practically all of the Pacific islands had fallen into the hands of the Western colonizers.

(2) Awakening of Japanese interests in the Pacific

Awakening of Japanese interests in the pacific islands came with the rise of Japan as a naval power in an increasingly competitive world politics of the early 20th century. As a victorious power in World War I, Japan acquired former German possessions in Micronesia in the form of League of Nation's Mandated Territory. During the Pacific War, these islands, especially Duplon Harbor in Truck Atoll, provided important bases for the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Navy of Japan.(*10) Many of the Pacific Islands, Makin and Tarawa in the Gilberts Group (today's Kiribati) and Bourgaunvile and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands among others, became battlegrounds for life-and-death fighting's between Japanese forces and their enemies.(*11) Japan's defeat in world War II put an end to about twenty years' administration of Micronesia, which now fell in the hands of the United States under the system to Strategic Trusteeship of the United Nations.

Apart from nostalgic memories held by war veterans about their wartime experience, it was rare for the ordinary Japanese to be interested in the affairs of the Pacific Islands once the war was over. It was only since around the middle of the 1970s that the Pacific Islands began to attract attention of policy-makers and opinion leaders in Japan. The fact that most of Polynesian and Melanesian peoples obtained political independence by the end of the 1970s occasioned possibility of Japanese involvement in political and economic development of these island countries. Three groups of Micronesia islands joined the ranks of independent states during the 1980s and 90s an established diplomatic relations with Japan. Thus albeit belatedly, Japanese have begun to throw themselves into the task of assisting political and economic developments of the Pacific Island Nations.

(3) Assistance to the State Building of the Pacific Island Nations

Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Pacific region amounts to only about 1% of all of Japan's ODA; however, this is understandable since the recipient countries are small in size, with the exception of Papua New Guinea. Japanese efforts in this respect should be compared to those of New Zealand, Australia and the United States (see Table 1).

The following table is prepared for the purpose of comparing Japanese ODA policy in the Pacific region with that in the Caribbean by picking up representative examples from the respective regions.

It would not be sufficient to speak of ODA policy in terms of amount of money only. An important evaluation basis is whether it is consistent and is carries out with a clear sense of objectives. There still is undoubtedly room for further improvement in this respect of Japan's ODA policy towards PINs. What follows is a brief outline of the type of Japanese ODA programs in recent years by agencies with a view to getting a rough idea of the current state of affairs concerning Japan's ODA policy in the region.(*12)

Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) provides concessional loans to Papua New Guinea and Fiji. The total of approved loans as of the end of March 1998 for yen loans to Papua New Guinea is 13 cases, amounting to approximately 58.6 billion yen. Emphasis is placed on assistance for the establishment and maintenance of international and domestic airline networks as well as land transportation networks. As for Fiji, a loan of 2.287 million yen was extended in February 1998 for supporting Nadi area with water supply of tourism development and for domestic consumption by the local population. The other smaller island nations in the region are not non-eligible for concessional loans of OECF, but they have been supported by Japan's grant and technical assistance program because of their small economic base. To them more relevant is the JICA's program, which is the next topic.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) mainly provides technical assistance and grant loans, and has projects in fourteen countries in the region, maintaining offices in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Samoa. In addition, the Agency dispatches Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) to six Pacific countries including Tonga, Vanuatu and others. In fiscal 1997, 4.6 billion yen, or 3.1% of JICA's total operating cost of 157.4 billion yen, was attributed towards the PINs. Priority is given to developing human resources and BHN.

Pacific Island Centre (PIC) is quite a recent development, but its activities merit special attention. Established in 1996 in Tokyo based on the request of the SPF Secretariat, the Centre functions as an intermediary for various kinds of information between the PIN and Japan (the investment climate of the PINs, trade directory, tourism information, and information on the Japanese market). For example, in November 1998, the Centre, in collaboration with JETRO and the SPF Secretariat, and with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), held the South Pacific Exhibition and Investment Promotion Seminar in Tokyo. The Centre is expected to expand its activities in the future, working with the South Pacific Trade Commissions in Sydney and Auckland, and The South Pacific Tourism Organization, etc.

NGO There are still not very many NGOs and NPOs in Japan which are interested in the PIN. Let me introduce the activities of some of them. First, Japan-South Pacific Economy Association (JASPA) which was established in 1975 by Japanese businessmen, ex-officials and politicians interested in the PINs. The Association dispatches an economic mission to the Pacific Islands each year and has already recorded its 21st mission. The participating members consist mainly of representatives of private companies but there usually participants from governmental agencies or semi-governmental organizations such as MITI, JETRO, and OECF, making the mission a joint exercise of the public and private sectors.

The Sasakawa Pacific Island Nations Fund (SPINF) is a leading NGO/NPO which is seriously dedicated to welfare of the people of the Pacific Island Nations.(*13) The last, but not the least important, is the Foundation for Advanced Information and Research (FAIR), whose Committee for Pacific Island Countries has been consistently and actively engaged in the task of educating the public and advising the government officials about the matters related to the Pacific Islands.(*14)

(4) Looking Towards the Summit: PALM 2000

The Japanese Government invited leaders of the South Pacific Forum (SPF) to meet in Tokyo on 13 October 1997. Present at the meeting were presidents or prime ministers of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Fiji, Republic of Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Nauru, Niue, Republic of Palau, Solomon Islands, Kingdom of Tonga, Tuvalu and Republic of Vanuatu (Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea sent foreign ministers while Samoa was represented by finance minister who was concurrently deputy prime minister. Secretary General of the Forum Secretary was also present at the meeting).

The keynote speech made by Prime Minister Ryutaro HASHIMOTO at this summit meeting mentioned Japan's basic philosophy to further promote its invaluable relations with the Pacific island countries, dubbed as 'Four-Pillar Cooperation'. These four pillars were

(1) cooperation attentive to the self-determination and dignity of the Pacific island countries,
(2) cooperation for self economic reliance,
(3) cooperation through official development assistance with emphasis on human resources development and
(4) cooperation in the international fora to tackle global issues (mention was made to the Third Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP3, to be held in Kyoto in December of that year).

It is not difficult to see motives for the Japanese government to take initiative in holding the summit. Japan's economic interests in the Pacific island region are related to marine, mineral, and forestry resources that the island countries can provide (tuna, bonito etc. in Micronesia, Marshall, Palau and Solomon; copper and petroleum in PNG; and rubber in PNG and Solomon). The waters around the island countries are important sea lanes though which essential materials, especially oil from the Middle East and nuclear fuel materials from Europe are transported to Japan. Japan also appreciates greatly the continued support by the Pacific Island Nations for its interests in reforms of the United Nations Organization.

Such Japanese interests have been expressed by extending substantial economic assistance to the PINs (to which reference was already made), and by participating in the Post Forum Dialogue. The time has fully come for the relations between Japan and the PINs to be upgraded. It is for this reason that the Japanese government proposed to hold the Japan-South Pacific Forum Summit Meeting three years ago. Recently Japan and Forum Island Countries have agreed to hold its second meeting on 22 April this year in Miyazaki, Japan, which will be known as PALM 2000 (Pacific Islands Leaders' Meeting).

  • *9: Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (Kodansha, 1993), p.663. MURAYAMA Ichiro is the leading linguist who advanced the theory about the close connection between Japanese and Malayo-Polynesian Languages, although nobody, including Murayama himself, does not deny the strong trait of Ural-Altaic origin of the Japanese language.
  • *10: Mark R. Peatie, Nanyo: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia, 1885--1945 (University of Hawaii Press, 1988).
  • *11: William Bennett et al., The big Death: Solomon Islanders Remember World War II (Solomon Islands College of Higher Education. and the University of the South Pacific, 1988).
  • *12: A fuller description and analysis of this subject is provided by Sandra Tarte, Japan's Aid Diplomacy and the Pacific Islands, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of South Pacific, Suva, 1998.
  • *13: The Sasakawa Peace Foundation hosted the Pacific Island Nations Conference in 1988. This conference, subtitled "Friends Across Oceans, Peace Across Borders", gathered together in Tokyo Top-ranking officials from the Pacific island nations, neighboring countries, regional and international agencies, and representatives from various sectors in Japanese society. In response to a request expressed by many participants, the decision was made to establish a Pacific Island Nations Fund (3 billion yen) within the Sasakawa Peace Foundation to conduct specific regional projects on human resource development and people exchange. For the current programs and other information, please consult Website http://www.spf.org/spinf.
  • *14: The present paper is a revised and enlarged version of the introductory chapter of the following publication of the FAIR. "Pacific Island Nations in the Age of Globalization", 1999. Other publications of the FAIR include "Pacific Aid Initiative" (PAI), 1989 and "Japanese ODA to Pacific Island Countries: Current Problems and Future Perspective", 1993.
The New Relations between the Pacific Island Nations and Japan
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