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Japan PM to meet Pacific island leaders to talk aid, disasters

22 may 2015, 18:03

 Leaders of 14 Pacific island nations gathered in Japan Friday to start a two-day meeting to discuss their development needs, including steps to deal with climate change, AFP reports.

The seventh round of Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) came as host Japan attempts to boost its profile in the Pacific, at a time of growing Chinese economic and political influence in the region.

The meeting, held every three years, will also be joined by senior officials from other regional powers -- the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Pacific island leaders have long complained about rising sea levels eroding their coastlines and of the increasing severity and frequency of extreme climate phenomena, such as supertyphoons, likely caused by global warming.

They have pushed developed nations -- responsible for the much of the emissions associated with global warming -- to extend help to cope with damage brought by harsh climate patterns.

Most recently, in March Vanuatu was hit by Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam, which killed 11 people when sustained winds of more than 250 kilometres (155 miles) per hour tore through the country, affecting around 166,600 inhabitants.

In the previous PALM round in 2012, Japan pledged up to $500 million over three years to members, focused on damage mitigation efforts.

Japan decided to host this year's conference in Iwaki city in Fukushima prefecture to highlight the devastation wrought by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in 2011, and the region's subsequent reconstruction.

The city is far enough from the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactors not to expose the guests to dangerous levels of radiation, but it still serves as a grim reminder of the world's worst atomic accident in a generation.

Ahead of the conference, Japan recognised as a sovereign state the tiny island nation of Niue, home to 1,611 inhabitants, and perched some 2,400 kilometres northeast of New Zealand.

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