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SUPERPOWERS
Japan reviews aid to new global No. 2 China

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) March 2, 2011
Japan is reviewing whether to cut its financial aid to China after the population giant overtook the island-nation as the world's number two economy last year, officials said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara has asked his staff to report by June on whether to reduce overseas development assistance (ODA) that started in the late 1970s, foreign ministry officials said.

Japan's ODA -- including grant aid and technical cooperation -- for China was worth about 5.2 billion yen (63 million dollars) in fiscal 2009, the Japanese foreign ministry said.

The two Asian giants next year mark 40 years since the normalisation of diplomatic ties and say they are aiming to deepen what they call a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests".

In this context, "it is important to formulate a new configuration of cooperation between Japan and China," said foreign ministry assistant press secretary Takeshi Matsunaga in comments emailed to AFP.

"On the future ODA to China, it is our intention to review the assistance, in the light of the development of China as well as the current situation surrounding ODA, and taking into consideration... bilateral relations as a whole and the purpose of respective cooperation."

Media reports said opinion was divided in Japan on continuing the aid.

Some officials believe providing cash to China is no longer necessary since the country outranks Japan in economic output, Kyodo News reported, quoting unnamed government sources involved in the debate.

Others "fear a possible negative impact from severing such aid as it has helped improve anti-Japanese sentiment among Chinese people and facilitate an environment in which Japanese firms can do business in China", it said.

Some also note, Kyodo said, that there is still room for Japan to exercise influence through aid to China, citing the growing gap between the rich and poor and people's concern over environmental destruction.

The review comes months after Japan and China went through their worst diplomatic row in years, triggered by maritime collisions between a Chinese fishing trawler and Japanese coastguard ships in disputed waters.

Another Japanese foreign ministry spokesman, Satoru Satoh, told AFP: "Japan will not immediately end its ODA to China as there is a basic direction to rebuild and reinforce bilateral ties which were soured last year."

"Japan will continue ODA in areas that are beneficial for both Japan and China. Such areas include global issues that also impact on Japan, such as the environmental problems.

"Japan will also offer technical cooperation in areas regarding (industry) standards and institutional arrangements that are important to Japanese companies operating in China."

By the end of 2009, Japan's accumulative aid to China came to 3.3 trillion yen ($40 billion) of yen loans, which ended in 2007, 154 billion yen of grant aid and 170 billion yen of technical cooperation, the ministry said.







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