President Obama can expect strong reactions from three audiences after he arrives here in Honolulu this evening...commuters, who may be upset when their drive home gets complicated by the presidential motorcade....the World Conservation Congress, which can be expected to cheer his decision to greatly expand the Papahānaumokuākea National Monument...and the Pacific Islands Conference of leaders, which is meeting this week at the East-West center. We have more from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.
The pacific Islands Conference, the PIC, as it's known, is made up of 20 heads of government and meets every three years. Unlike other regional groupings, it includes Hawaii and US Pacific territories... American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. The current chair is Peter O'Neill, prime minister of Papua New Guinea - before he left for Hawaii, he told Papua New Guinea today that he expects the members of the PIC to emerge with a stronger collective perspective on key regional issues, including climate change and security. "The international community has a number of concerns at the moment," he told the newspaper, "including maritime disputes, the spread of terrorist attacks, global economic instability and the constant threat of extreme weather caused by climate change."
Prime Minister O'Neill noted that Pacific Island Nations have a very positive relationship with President Obama, and that this meeting provides an opportunity to work with US officials to prepare for the change of government in Washington next year. He also spoke warmly about his last visit here, for the APEC summit in 2011, "Hawaiians are Pacific Islanders and we share many cultural similarities," he said, and added that he would draw from their experience, when Papua New Guinea hosts the APEC summit in Port Moresby in 2018.