The U.S. military has provided a total of ¥226.46 million ($1.8 million) in research funds to at least 12 universities and research institutions in Japan since 2000.
The donations came to light as Japan and the United States continue to boost their already close security ties after the government passed contentious new security legislation in September. The new laws allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or aiding an ally under armed assault, even if Japan itself is not attacked.
According to information released by the U.S. government, Washington has provided a total of $1.5 million to researchers at 26 universities and other institutions across Japan. Of these, 12 confirmed to Kyodo News that they received the funds.
The remaining 14 said that they had either not received such funds or that they could not confirm receiving them as the period for retaining records had expired.
In the wake of the security bills, some critics have called for a new set of rules covering connections academia and military research.
They say Japan’s academic institutions — which have long distanced themselves from military research — are weakening in their opposition to involvement in such projects due to funding shortages.
“The (U.S. Department of Defense) investments in Japanese universities and research institutions have taken place over decades and have come primarily from the military services (army, air force, navy and marines) who fund studies based on their organizations’ scientific priorities,” U.S. Forces Japan said in a statement.
In one such case, the Tokyo Institute of Technology agreed to receive a total of $870,000 in U.S. military funding for 11 research projects on topics including carbon fiber composites since 2005. The university said the agreement was in line with its in-house guidelines.
The Riken research institute received a total of ¥47.98 million for two projects, including one on laser processing technology, between 2000 and 2010.
The National Institute for Materials Science, which received a total of ¥3.92 million in 2010 and 2012, said it had received other funding from the U.S. armed forces but could not disclose details due to “the wishes” of the U.S. military.
Several universities and researchers cited “shortages of research funds” as their rationale for accepting the money. One said the
funds merely went toward the purchase of chemicals used in research, and only wrote and sent a “simple report” to the U.S. military.