Japan, Pacific leaders to hold summit near Fukushima

Top leaders from Japan and Pacific island nations will hold a summit in a city near the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2015, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Saturday.

Kishida made the announcement at a news conference after a meeting of ministers from Japan and the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum in Tokyo to prepare for the triennial summit.

The 2015 meeting will be held in Iwaki, a provincial city located about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the plant.

A massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 ravaged Japan's northeast coast and sparked a meltdown crisis at the plant which has released radiation into the environment.

"Holding the Pacific island summit in the disaster-hit area will provide a chance to tell the world how our country is making a strong recovery from the east Japan earthquake," Takumi Nemoto, Japan's minister for reconstruction, said in a statement.

Japan has hosted the summit six times since 1977 to discuss maritime order, resource management and new ways to cooperate in trade and investment at a time when China is boosting its presence in the Pacific.

At last year's summit, held in Okinawa, Japan pledged aid worth up to $500 million over three years to Pacific island nations, of which Kishida said about 90 percent had been extended.

The Pacific Islands Forum groups Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Like Japan, Australia and New Zealand are taking part as aid givers.

The summit is seen as one prong of Tokyo's charm offensive to garner support in its bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

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