So far around 65,000 students from 160 countries around the world have studied in Japan through the MEXT Scholarship programme, first established in 1954.
Two scholarships are being offered to New Zealand, Cook Islands, and Niuean citizens. These are a postgraduate research student’s scholarship and an undergraduate student’s scholarships.
Two scholarships are also being offered exclusively to Cook Islands and Niuean citizens and involve a specialised training college student’s scholarship and a College of Technology student’s scholarship.
The scholarship recipients will be decided in August.
The Cook Islands first established diplomatic relations with Japan in 2011. Since then, the two countries have continued to strengthen bilateral relations, including exchanges and economic cooperation. There has been a 64 per cent increase in the number of Japanese visitors coming to these shores.
In 2011, prime minister Henry Puna expressed his government’s desire to receive support from Japan in environmental matters. Puna and then Japanese foreign minister Takeaki Matsumo also exchanged views on bilateral cooperation in the international arena.
The financial relationship the Cook Islands has with Japan is through grant assistance, human resource capability building programmes and technical assistance.
Since 2011, the Japanese government has provided $1.5million in community grant assistance. Around 5 per cent of the Cook Islands Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget for 2015 to 2018 is from the Japanese government.
In 2016, community grants were approved for Tei Muri Motia Volunteer Fire Rescue Brigade Charitable Trust to build a rescue and fire station for the Vaka Takitumu. A $113,000 grant was also made to Te Kainga O Pa Taunga Mental Health organisation for the construction of facilities in Aitutaki.
Handover ceremonies were also held in 2016 for the newly-renovated Apii Te Uki Ou Primary School.
Other projects in 2016 included the construction of water tanks on Atiu and the development of a sustainable taro planting irrigation system in Mangaia. The projects were worth a total of $320,000.
The announcement of the scholarships was well timed, with prime minister Henry Puna set to attend the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) in Fukushima, Japan next week.
The PALM meeting is held every three years and involves leaders from throughout the Pacific meeting to discuss issues within the region.