Japan has announced that it will provide defense equipment to countries that share its values and promote the rule of law to help enhance their defense capabilities and deal with security threats in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly China’s military buildup in the Indo-Pacific.
The program, called Official Security Assistance (OSA), will target maritime and aerial surveillance, disaster response, and other forms of humanitarian assistance.
The Japanese government has identified Malaysia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Fiji as the primary beneficiaries of the grant assistance. Japan has allocated 2 billion yen ($15 million) to finance the OSA for the fiscal year 2023.
The OSA will operate within Japan’s three principles on transferring defense equipment and technology, which sets out strict conditions for arms exports.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry has also unveiled a draft of its revised policy outline on nonmilitary development aid. The new approach enables Japan to design and propose assistance steps proactively.
The policy outline targets increasing the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget to 0.7 percent of gross national income from the current 0.34 percent in the future. It also refers to the necessity of ensuring debt sustainability for the first time.
This is a response to concerns over China’s alleged economic coercion and “debt-trap” diplomacy, which are criticized for using liabilities as leverage to gain concessions from borrowing countries.
The draft also promises to support recipient governments in developing the legal system to establish “the rule of law” and to “pay full attention” to how they will map out policies to fight against climate change.
The policy outline is expected to be approved by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet next month after receiving public comments through May 4.
While the assistance to the four countries will be fixed in a few months, government officials have not ruled out the possibility of aiding Ukraine, invaded by Russia since February 2022.
The program aims to create a favorable security environment for Japan and deter unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the region, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.