Japan foreign minister preparing to visit Pacific islands in late March -Yomiuri

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FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi speaks to reporters about South Korea’s plan to resolve a dispute over compensating people forced to work under Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of Korea, in Tokyo, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo on March 6, 2023. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan has begun preparations for Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to visit the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and the Cook Islands in late March, the daily Yomiuri newspaper reported on Sunday citing multiple government sources.

The visit, expected to take place from March 18 to 22, comes after China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands last year, prompting concern from the United States and Australia as China seeks to extend its influence in the region.

Hayashi intends to affirm the three islands states’ cooperation with an “free and open Indo-Pacific”, and is considering suggesting security cooperation as well, the report said.

He also plans to assuage concerns over the release of treated water from the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant later this year, according to the Yomiuri.

Japan is set to release 1 million tonnes of water which would be filtered to remove most isotopes but would still contain traces of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen hard to separate from water, in a plan that has been deemed safe by regulators but has alarmed some Pacific Island nations.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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