• Kyodo

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Japan and the United States are looking to jointly set up a fund to help companies and individuals hit hard by March’s natural disasters to restart their businesses, several sources said Sunday.

The Tomodachi Fund, named after the Japanese word for “friend” that gained currency via the massive Operation Tomodachi U.S. military 3/11 disaster relief effort, would be funded through financial support from private companies in Japan, the United States and elsewhere, and focus its lending on small and medium-size enterprises in the disaster zone, the sources said.

The fund will likely seek financial support from corporations through organizations such as the U.S.-Japan Council, whose members include major companies from both countries, and provide loans to firms and individuals that pass screening, the sources said.

The Japanese and U.S. governments plan to begin discussing details of the fund, including its scale, next month and to launch it as early as this fall, the sources added.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region devastated many businesses, especially in the three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.

According to a survey conducted by a private credit company, nearly 70 percent of major companies located in the coastal area of Iwate said their offices or factories were completely destroyed or partially damaged.