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ODA for foreign armies mulled

Ban on military use of official aid faces rewrite amid noncombat reassurances

Kyodo

The government might revise the Official Development Assistance Charter to allow Japan to use official aid to help foreign military forces engaged in noncombat operations, such as disaster relief and coast guard activities, according to sources.

“We have been too stiff in saying that we cannot provide any ODA to any military,” a government official said.

The charter bans Japan from using ODA to assist foreign military forces to prevent the aid from being used to abet international conflicts. The official said the review would be in line with the strategic utilization of ODA stipulated in the National Security Strategy adopted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet in December.

The revision to the charter, created in 1992 and revised in 2003, would allow Japan to train personnel to engage in military-led disaster relief activities and provide patrol ships to bolster coast guard operations around key sea lanes, government sources said Friday.

The government is aiming to revise the charter by the end of this year for the dispersal of more than $10 billion (about ¥1.02 trillion) in ODA per year to make assistance provided to developing nations more “strategic” and reflective of changing global conditions.

Referring to cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. and other foreign troops during disaster relief operations in the typhoon-hit Philippines last fall, the sources said the government recognizes the increasing role of military forces in noncombat operations.

The government has determined that even if Japan were to provide ODA to foreign militaries, it should be flexible, depending on the content of envisaged aid, the government sources said.

The move, however, is likely to spark concern that ODA could be diverted for military purposes. To assuage such apprehension, the government plans to study measures to prevent recipients from using Japanese development funds for combat activities.

Japan has made it a rule never to extend ODA to foreign militaries by strictly observing the charter, which was designed to avoid the use of aid to abet international conflicts. Traditionally, Japanese ODA has been primarily used for infrastructure building and poverty reduction in recipient countries.