If Japan wants to maintain its international influence, it should increase, not pare, official development assistance because South Korea, China and other countries are boosting economic aid to key developing states, the new Japan International Cooperation Agency chief says.

Throughout the 1990s, Japan was the world's No. 1 ODA donor. But for 13 consecutive years, Japan has descended the aid ranking ladder and now provides less than half of its 1997 peak contribution of ¥1.16 trillion. The nation's ODA budget now ranks fifth in the world, said Akihiko Tanaka, who in April took over the presidency of the government-backed provider of ODA projects for developing countries.

Tanaka, a former professor of international politics at the University of Tokyo, replaced Sadako Ogata at the JICA helm.