Representatives from 10 island nations in the South Pacific and related organizations began talks Friday to strengthen ties and to find ways to cooperate with Japan.

It was the first such conference held in Japan since World War II, said Takeju Ogata, general manager of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, which sponsored the two-day meeting that drew 46 representatives."The nations of the Pacific island region hold great potential across the broad spectrum of political, economic, and cultural endeavors, and in recent years, the world's attentions for this region have risen," Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita said in a message read to the gathering.

Heads of state or ministers from Fiji, Kiribati, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Western Samoa and the Cook Islands, and officials and representatives from eight other countries including Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and France met in a Tokyo hotel.