Destabilizing arc of aid

Updated: 2014-07-11 07:05

By Cai Hong (China Daily)

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Shinzo Abe is using the country's official development assistance to engineer a quasi-coalition in Southeast Asia

While the right to collective self-defense is in the foreground of public attention, another plan of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is going unnoticed.

He is seeking to revise the charter of the country's official development assistance by the end of this year - the first time in 11 years.

Abe is figuring out how to put ODA to "strategic use" so it can suit his "proactive" diplomatic doctrine.

Japan's ODA charter, adopted in 1992 and revised in 2003, stipulates "any use of ODA for military purposes or for aggravation of international conflicts should be avoided".

But Abe wants to make that a thing of the past.

An eight-member panel, which Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida handpicked in March, issued policy recommendations in June, saying that assistance to foreign militaries should be allowed, as long as it is limited to nonmilitary purposes such as disaster relief.

The envisioned ODA funding will cover such projects at least as improvement of ports, harbors and airports for joint military and civilian use and inviting military personnel from abroad for disaster relief training and other nonmilitary operations.

The Abe administration is attempting to alter the tenets of Japan's foreign policy that the nation has upheld in postwar years as a "pacifist" nation.

The recommended ODA revision is also in the same vein. And Japan's ODA to Southeast Asian countries has already been used for security purposes.

In 2006, when Abe was in his first premiership, Japan provided Indonesia with three patrol ships, with the caveat that they could only be used to fight piracy.

Personnel from Japan's coast guard were sent to Malaysia under the ODA budget to teach local trainees search and rescue techniques.

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