The government is expected to triple its annual civilian support to Afghanistan to $1 billion as it ends the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean supporting antiterrorism interdictions, top aid official Sadako Ogata said.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama should focus assistance on agriculture and urban development, said Ogata, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
His decision to stop refueling naval vessels in support of U.S.-led forces won’t harm American ties, she said in a recent interview.
“I think the annual amount will be close to $1 billion,” Ogata, 82, said at her office in Tokyo. “There are significant expectations for Japan’s civilian power.”
Hatoyama is seeking to boost Japan’s contribution in the region while soothing any U.S. resentment for ending the Indian Ocean refueling mission. Japan has provided about $1.8 billion in Afghan reconstruction aid since 2002, with JICA playing the “central role” by building more than 500 schools, increasing rice production and boosting infrastructure, Ogata said.
“We have so many ways to spend money,” she said.
Ogata, who according to the Foreign Ministry has visited Afghanistan more than any other senior government official, said the Hatoyama administration is considering how to strengthen Afghanistan’s police force, whose salaries are 50 percent funded by Japan.
Hatoyama is reviewing Japan’s security policy and seeking “equal” ties with the United States.
“Obama administration officials told me they want each nation to contribute by what it can do best and they value support for the Afghan people,” said Ogata, who visited Washington in March as special envoy for Hatoyama’s predecessor, Taro Aso. “It’s only natural for a new government to review policy after one party ruled for 50 years.”
Ogata was the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees from 1991 to 2000.
Two Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels left Monday for the Indian Ocean in what figures to be the final dispatch for Japan’s refueling mission in support of U.S.-led antiterrorism operations.
The 13,500-ton supply ship Mashu from the Maizuru base in Kyoto Prefecture and the 4,550-ton destroyer Ikazuchi from the Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture will begin their duties later this month or early next month, according to the government.
The new administration plans to withdraw from the refueling mission following the expiration of a special antiterrorism law in January.
Since the first dispatch of MSDF vessels in December 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Japan has provided around 24,000 kiloliters of fuel to ships from other countries involved in the U.S.-led operations aimed at cracking down on terrorists and drug smugglers.