S.Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol, co-host of the 1st Korea-Pacific Summit with PIF Chairman, Prime Minister Mark Brown (Cook Islands) Photo credit: South Korea MOFA

(Seoul, Korea) Concluding the first Korea-Pacific Island Summit yesterday, Prime Minister Mark Brown of Cook Islands and Chairman of the Pacific Island Forum said the Summit successfully demonstrated Korea’s commitment toward engagement with the Pacific.

President Surangel Whipps Jr. in bilateral meeting with S. Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol

Korea, Chairman Brown said, showed they want to have real, meaningful engagement with the Pacific Island countries in the joint declaration.  They recognize the Pacific 2050 Strategy and have established diplomatic relations with all Forum members, signing diplomatic relations with Niue yesterday.  They have promised increased funding for Pacific Island countries, increased support for the Pacific Island Forum, and to align their initiatives with the Pacific region’s priorities.   

“Far too often now, we have to contend with Partners determining for us the priorities that are most important to us.  This era is now over.  If you want to work in our region, you need to work with us so that your efforts complement and strengthen ongoing efforts at the national and regional level,” stated Chairman Brown in his opening remarks at the Korea-Pacific Summit opening yesterday.

The Pacific leaders do not see the surging interest in the region as an issue of “contestability” but rather of opportunity and collaboration.  Chairman Brown said this is an opportunity to bring in these development partners to help address critical issues such as post-pandemic recovery and climate change challenges.  “There is more than enough room for everybody to play a role, helping Pacific Island countries with their development aspirations, particularly coming out of COVID-19.”

Spouses of heads of states of Pacific Islands Forum and South Korea hosted by Kim Keon Hee, First Lady of South Korea (Center – on her left, First Lady Valerie Whipps of Palau)

President Surangel Whipps Jr. said the Joint Declaration between the Pacific islands and South Korea was very positive and appreciated South Korea’s commitment to climate change, understanding the challenges the small island states have and wanting to take a leadership role.  “And they should as a Pacific country,” Whipps added.“We want to be true partners and true partners means realizing the challenges and being committed to meeting those challenges.”

Having Korea joining with the United States, India, Japan, and other Pacific traditional partners come on board on climate change issues and economic recovery for the region is reassuring. “So all in all, I think a tremendous job done by Korea and bringing everybody together to have this summit here,” PIF Chairman Brown.

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