Japan may examine its aid policy toward China as early as next year with an eye to gradually reducing the official development assistance and eventually ending it altogether, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura suggested Monday.

“I do not think ODA provision will continue forever,” Machimura told a House of Councilors panel, noting China’s remarkable economic development. “We would like to devise a policy about how (Japan) should aid China as early as next year with a soft-landing scenario in mind.”

Machimura said reviewing ODA policy every four to five years is stipulated under a country-by-country aid plan. The latest plan for China was adopted in 2001.

There have been growing calls within the government and ruling parties to halt ODA to China in the near future.

Beijing has expressed displeasure at such calls, and observers said Machimura’s specific remarks on the review of the aid plan could further heighten tensions.