Japan on Saturday pledged 50 billion yen (528 million dollars) in aid to small Pacific islands over the next three years to help them with clean energy projects and to cope with climate change.
Japan Prime Minister Taro Aso announced the financial assistance, an increase of more than 10 per cent from its pledge announced three years ago, at the closing of the fifth Pacific Leaders Meeting in northern Japan.
"Pacific leaders are worried about rising sea levels," Aso told a news conference. "Hearing concerns of Pacific island leaders was very persuasive."
Japan wants to use its "leading edge technology" to help Pacific island nations facing rising sea levels from global warming," the premier said.
"Climate change is a life and death issue," said Aso's spokesman Kazuo Kodama. "It's about the survival of island countries. There was a strong sense of crisis by all speakers."
In a statement, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and 14 island nations expressed "deep concern" about the "growing threat posed by climate change to the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being and security of Pacific island countries."
The 14 island nations were the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
"We hope countries know we have to act now to slow the climate change cycle and help our earth survive," said Niue Premier Toke Talagi, who co-chaired the meeting with Aso.
Under the plan, Japan will provide solar battery panels and water clarification systems for islanders, while supporting people-to-people exchanges and technical training programmes to reduce greenhouse gases.
It is the latest windfall for the isolated states as major powers try to win their hearts and minds -- and their votes in international forums.
While small in size, the islands hold 12 critical votes at the United Nations, where Japan is seeking a permanent Security Council seat, a goal strongly opposed by China, which is also wooing the Pacific.
On the sidelines of the conference, Aso held talks with Marshall Islands President Litokwa Tomeing and agreed to grant funding to the Pacific island for solar power generation systems.
Fiji's military leader Voreqe Bainimarama -- who overthrew the elected government in a 2006 coup -- was not invited. Fiji was represented by its ambassador.
Last month, the military regime tightened its grip on power, leading to its suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional bloc.