Advisers urge Japan to offer foreign aid to richer nations

TOKYO Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:11am EDT

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks next to a teleprompter during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo June 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks next to a teleprompter during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo June 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Yuya Shino

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Advisers to Japan's foreign minister urged the government on Thursday to include richer nations among its foreign aid recipients, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushes for Tokyo to play a bigger role in global security and diplomacy.

Japan is the world's fourth-largest donor of official development assistance (ODA) behind the United States, Britain and Germany, and its foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, has called its development aid "Japan's biggest diplomatic tool."

The advisers said Japan should keep its policy of refraining from funneling ODA for military uses, but noted that humanitarian activities by armed forces, such as disaster relief, should not be excluded uniformly just because they are military-related.

Abe's government is reviewing its ODA policy and plans to draw up a set of new principles by the end of the year, after taking into account the panel's recommendations.

"There are countries that are beset with various types of vulnerability and development challenges even after they have achieved a certain level of growth," the advisers said in the report. "It is important to respond to development needs of those countries as broadly and as meticulously as possible, without mechanically applying income levels and other criteria."

Countries that could become new aid targets include those in the Caribbean and Middle East, some of which have outgrown the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) list of eligible ODA recipients, according to the foreign ministry.

The advisers also recommended closer coordination between the government and the private sector to maximize the effect of Japan's overseas development aid, a step that would help Japanese companies win overseas deals.

"Cooperation between the public and private sectors is getting increasingly important to bring together Japan's superior knowledge, technology, and various resources, and to support developing countries more effectively," it said.

Since taking office in December 2012, Abe has traveled extensively overseas to promote Japan's new foreign policy of making a more "proactive contribution to peace", as well as to help Japanese firms expand their overseas businesses.

Abe told a news conference on Tuesday that his approach had helped Japanese companies win more than 9 trillion yen ($88.2 billion) in foreign infrastructure orders last year, a threefold jump from a year earlier.

($1 = 102.0500 Japanese Yen)

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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