Japan’s total official development assistance in 1997 decreased 1.8 percent from a year earlier to $9.44 billion, but the nation was the world’s top aid donor for the seventh consecutive year, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday in a report.

Of the total, bilateral assistance accounted for $6.6 billion, down 20.9 percent from the previous year, while contributions and donations to international organizations rose 125.5 percent to $2.8 billion, the report says. Japan was the largest aid donor to 47 of the 162 countries to which it extended aid, it says.

China was the largest recipient of Japan’s aid, with $576.86 million, followed by Indonesia, which received $496.86 million, according to the report. The ministry said that assistance to Asian countries that have been hit by the economic crisis is becoming increasingly important.

Japan pledged a total of about $42 billion earlier this year in emergency aid for Asian countries, the report says.

As for South Asian countries, India was the third-largest recipient of Japan’s aid, with $491.8 million, and Pakistan was the 11th-largest, with $92.16 million. South Asian countries generally need assistance in welfare, medical and educational fields, which help to reduce poverty, but Japan decided to freeze new loans and grants for India and Pakistan to protest their nuclear tests in May.

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