PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare was an obvious absentee when the seventh Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM7) opened in the Japanese city of Iwaki last weekend.
All 14 island leaders, except Mr Sogavare, are attending the summit at the invitation of the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe.
Mr Sogavare had instead dispatched his deputy Douglas Ete to attend on his behalf. Mr Été is being accompanied by senior Foreign Affairs official William Soaki.
Government officials say while Mr Sogavare would love to be at the meeting, he has a lot on his table to attend to at home.
Japan is hosting PALM7 at Iwaki in the prefecture of Fukushima, the region ravaged by the devastating earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, killing more than 15,000 people and leaving behind a trail of unimaginable destruction.
The leaders’ summit was preceded by an Investment Promotion forum on Thursday and a display of Pacific Islands products in capital Tokyo.
Some of Japan’s major companies used the investment promotion forum to brief island leaders and delegates about their businesses and plans for the future.
Japan is expected to announce a major funding cooperation package for Pacific island countries for the next three years at today’s summit.
It is also envisage that a new vision of Japan’s diplomacy towards Pacific Island countries will be unveiled during the meeting.
According to Japanese officials, issues to be discussed at the conference are disaster risk reduction, environment and climate change, people to people exchanges, sustainable development, and maritime issues and fisheries.
PALM is a summit-level meeting which has been held every three years since 1997.
Leaders openly discuss various issues that Pacific island countries are facing in order to build close cooperative relationships and forge a bond of friendship between Japan and Pacific island countries.