The Cook Islands Prime Minister and chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna, says his approach to building stronger relations within the Pacific is serving national interests, and should not be construed as ignoring the needs of Cook Islanders.
Last week opposition leader, Wilkie Rasmussen, called on Mr Puna to stay home and deal with the Cook Islands economy and its development.
Mr Rasmussen accused Mr Puna of being caught in a culture of pleasantries that leads to countless meetings and resolutions that are rarely implemented.
But Mr Puna says he wants to capitalise on the country's strengthening regional ties and expose the Cook Islands to opportunities that may otherwise be overlooked.
Mr Puna says Forum member countries have much to gain from each other, promoting their concerns as a unified voice, and exploring solutions that may be available through closer ties.