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New Japanese Policy to Allow Overseas Defense Funding

Japan plans to offer countries financial assistance to help them bolster defenses, marking Tokyo’s first unambiguous departure from rules that forbid the use of international aid for military purposes.

Japan’s Overseas Security Assistance (OSA) will be managed separately from the Overseas Development Assistance program that for decades has funded roads, dams and other civilian infrastructure, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said in April 2023.

“By enhancing their security and deterrence capabilities, OSA aims to deepen our security cooperation with the countries, to create a desirable security environment for Japan,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The change comes as Japan undertakes its biggest defense buildup since World War II in a marked shift from the pacifism that is set out in its constitution.

The OSA program prohibits the use of aid to buy lethal weapons that could be used in conflicts, in accordance with principles governing arms exports, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

Projects are expected to include satellite communication and radio systems for maritime surveillance, and the first recipients likely will be Bangladesh, Fiji, Malaysia and the Philippines. The ministry planned to begin an OSA feasibility study in those countries, with an eye on strengthening their maritime security. (Pictured: Japanese and Philippine Coast Guard vessels conduct an anti-piracy exercise near Manila.)

Japan is considering providing radars to the Philippines to help it monitor Chinese activity in the contested South China Sea, the Yomiuri newspaper reported in April 2023.

In principle, only developing countries will be eligible for the aid given that it will be provided as grants, according to
the ministry.

The decision to expand the scope of international aid to military-related projects follows Japan’s announcement in December 2022 of a substantial increase in defense spending over the next five years as Tokyo looks to counter the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) growing military.

Japan has also been increasing engagement with developing nations to counter the PRC. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in March 2023 announced a U.S. $75 billion investment across the Indo-Pacific to forge stronger ties with South and Southeast Asia.  Reuters

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