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Land of the Rising Gun
Japan Puts Some Muscle into Foreign Aid

Japan continues to seek a more active role in the world, this time by funneling money to foreign armed forces. The policy shift marks the first time Tokyo will be allowed to do so since the end of WWII, when Japan became constitutionally pacifist. Stripes reports:

Japan’s Cabinet on Tuesday adopted new guidelines for international aid that for the first time clearly state that it will allow provisions for foreign armed forces, although limited to non-military purposes.

And the guidelines say Japan should prioritize aid to Southeast Asia to strengthen cooperation amid China’s growing presence in the region. […]

The changes, the first in 12 years, are in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to bolster Japan’s international role in diplomacy and national security.

“Taking into consideration that armed forces are increasingly playing major roles in post-conflict reconstruction and disaster relief efforts, we specified our policy regarding non-military projects,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

Despite the emphasis on non-military functions, some of the aid money could very well end up supporting military activity. Even if it isn’t directly used to make war, it may free up some other funds for military operations. Tokyo may well have had something like that in mind when it gave $200 million to Middle Eastern countries fighting ISIS recently.

Since the new aid policy is still officially pacifistic, this is a subtle change. But it’s an important one. Japan is the third-largest economy in the world, and when it changes the way it throws its economic weight around, that’s potentially significant. The change also relates to the Abe cabinet’s reinterpretation of the Japanese constitution to allow for war in service of “collective self-defense.” One after another, these moves toward an activist posture are forming a clear picture of Japan’s foreign policy goals.

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