By Lee Haye-ah
SEOUL, May 29 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk Yeol and the leaders of a group of Pacific island nations agreed Monday to expand cooperation in diverse areas, including the response to the climate crisis and economic development.
The leaders reached the agreement during an inaugural summit held between South Korea and Pacific island nations in Seoul, according to a summary of a joint statement provided by Yoon's office.
The two-day summit is being held through Tuesday under the theme "Navigating towards Co-Prosperity: Strengthening Cooperation with the Blue Pacific," with the participation of 12 leaders and 5 minister-level officials from 17 of the 18 members of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), an intergovernmental body aimed at enhancing cooperation among island countries in the region.
"This meeting is the first multilateral summit being hosted in the Republic of Korea since my inauguration in May last year," Yoon said during the summit at the former presidential compound of Cheong Wa Dae, referring to South Korea by its formal name.
"Also it is an occasion declaring that the Pacific Islands Forum is a key partner in the Republic of Korea's Indo-Pacific Strategy," he said.
The 17 participating PIF members were Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Tonga, Palau, Niue, Nauru, Kiribati, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia and New Caledonia.
The Federated States of Micronesia was unable to attend due to a typhoon, according to Yoon's office.
"The crisis of climate change, natural disasters, food, health, oceans and fisheries, which is directly linked to the survival and prosperity of Pacific island nations, can only be overcome through solidarity and cooperation," Yoon said.
"I will firmly support the principle of a single Blue Pacific, which places importance on the role of the Pacific Islands Forum and the partnership of all member states, while deepening cooperation with Pacific island states," he added.
According to the presidential office, the joint statement presented a vision to build a partnership of freedom, peace and prosperity between South Korea and Pacific island nations on the occasion of the summit,
It also presented a plan to develop the partnership based on South Korea's Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Pacific island nations' 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
In the joint statement, the leaders agreed to work together to strengthen the rules-based regional and international order, while also agreeing on comprehensive security cooperation in the maritime, climate, energy, cyber, health and other areas.
The statement noted South Korea's pledge to double its official development assistance (ODA) for Pacific island nations to US$39.9 million by 2027, and to strengthen efforts to provide financial, technological and other assistance in responding to climate change.
It also emphasized the importance of protecting oceans from environmental pollution caused by radioactive material.
The Pacific island nations welcomed South Korea's bid to host the 2030 World Expo in its southeastern city of Busan.
The leaders also reaffirmed their countries' agreement to shorten the cycle of their foreign ministerial talks to every two years and to hold the next summit at a mutually agreed time and place.
Separately, South Korea unveiled its own action plan for relations with Pacific island nations under the three pillars of resilience, reinforcement and revitalization.
Resilience centers on enhancing cooperation against the climate crisis and improving Pacific island nations' ability to recover from climate-induced disasters.
Reinforcement aims to realize the potential of Pacific island nations by gradually increasing South Korea's ODA, and sharing advanced technologies and conducting training programs with them.
Under revitalization, the goal is to boost the connectivity of Pacific island nations in the post-pandemic era by increasing people-to-people, digital and material exchanges.