North Korean threat causes security scramble in Pacific Islands

Pacific Island nations want to boost security and intelligence sharing in the face of increasing drugs and people trafficking and threats from North Korea.

The issues are being discussed by leaders from around the region at the Pacific Islands Forum in Samoa.

The streets of Apia are bustling with visitors and police as leaders from 18 nations converge on the capital.

But it's what's happening beyond these pristine waters that's causing serious concern - an increasingly belligerent North Korea says it has the military might to attack the US pacific territory of Guam.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi says that while they are discussing their part of the Pacific, "we cannot remain ignorant of what is happening in the North".

Forum Fisheries Agency Director General, James Movick, says they "can't remain isolated from a lot of these regional and global security situations and just think that we are sitting in pristine paradise unaffacted by the rest of the world."

So pacific leaders are formulating a plan - they want a central, shared intelligence database where all pacific neighbours can be linked in.

"Cooperation between broader law enforcement agencies - intergrating input from fisheries, customs, immigration and trans-national crime," explained Mr Movick.

A delegation from the United States says it's working to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula, but says the threats to this region are multiple, including the possibility of terror groups treating isolated pacific nations hideouts.

Susan Thornton, US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Pacific Affairs says the remoteness of some Pacific Islands means "that might be a place to exploit for transit through to other countries, so we talked about the importance of having good information sharing on things like electronic passports and other migration data."

Organised crime syndicates have already seized on sparsely populated and under-resourced pacific nations to traffic drugs.

In 2013, authorities stumbled across 200 kilos of cocaine when this yacht ran aground off Tonga. Another 1.5 tonnes was found on another yacht off Tonga by the French Navy just last month.

The delegations from the US insist it hasn't lost relevance in the pacific and can still do business, even though Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, a deal widely celebrated and considered hugely important for low-lying nations like Samoa. Talks to upgrade regional security initiatives continue tomorrow with the arrival of Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee.