Abe ramps up Middle East aid

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (centre) reviews an honour guard after his arrival in Kingston, Jamaica on Sep 30, 2015.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (centre) reviews an honour guard after his arrival in Kingston, Jamaica on Sep 30, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Projecting himself as the leader of a resurgent and more outgoing Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used his United Nations speech to announce a vast increase in aid to people uprooted by mayhem in the Middle East.

Mr Abe on Tuesday told the General Assembly that Japan would provide about US$810 million (S$1.2 billion) in assistance to refugees and internally displaced people in Syria and Iraq this year, about triple the amount from last year.

He also announced assistance of about US$750 million, including money to pay for water-supply systems in Iraq and other projects "to help build peace and fully ensure this peace across the Middle East and Africa".

His speech was also notable because he did not make any reference to Japan's friction with an increasingly assertive China.

But earlier in the day, in remarks at a forum hosted by the Bloomberg financial data company for New York bankers and investors, Mr Abe did say he wanted a "stable relationship between China and Japan".

In his General Assembly speech, Mr Abe alluded to the politically delicate legislative change he successfully pushed through this month to authorise overseas combat missions for the military.

The change overturns Japan's longstanding postwar policy on the use of force only for self-defence, and has been viewed with mistrust by the country's Asian neighbours who were once subjugated by Japan.

In his speech, however, Mr Abe framed the change as the opposite of a belligerent move, saying it had enabled Japan to "contribute to peacekeeping operations in a broader manner going forward".

Mr Abe also reinforced Japan's longstanding desire to become a permanent member of the Security Council. He said Japan had been a "peace-loving nation for the 70 years since the end of World War II, and we have accumulated a record of successful efforts fostering peace and prosperity in the world".

Japan is part of the so-called Group of Four, with Brazil, Germany and India, whose members have long been advocating changes in the 15-member Security Council that would enable them to become permanent members.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2015, with the headline 'Abe ramps up Middle East aid'. Print Edition | Subscribe