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Japan, Wary of Military Build-up, Announces It Will Cut China Aid

By John Pomfret

The Washington Post -- Beijing

Japan will likely cut its aid to China significantly again this year because the Japanese are increasingly suspicious of China, and Japan’s government is concerned about China’s military build-up, Japanese officials said Monday.

The announcement was made as Japan’s foreign minister Yoriko Kawaguchi wrapped up a three-day trip to Beijing and was an indication of a growing distance between faltering Japan, which has seen its economy barely grow in 10 years, and emergent China, which dreams of replacing Tokyo as Asia’s economic and military power.

The two countries will commemorate 30 years of diplomatic relations on Sept. 29, but the ceremonies will be largely subdued. It is unclear whether Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whom China had informally invited to attend the ceremonies, will take part. Many Japanese now see China as the chief threat to their country’s premier position in Asia. China still views Japan as largely unrepentant for the atrocities committed on the mainland by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

For decades, Japan has been China’s biggest bilateral donor, funding tens of billions of projects from airports to forests. But partly because of a series of Japanese press reports questioning China’s gratitude and partly because of a broader anti-Chinese shift in Japan, aid for China has become a hot button topic in Tokyo.

Japan cut its overseas development assistance to China by 25 percent during fiscal year 2001, which ended in April, the largest cut since Japan first began providing China with development assistance in the early 1970s. The drop was more than twice that of overall Japanese aid to foreign countries, which fell by 10 percent.

Overseas development assistance (ODA) to China “is very much debated by politicians,” said a spokesman for the Japanese Foreign Ministry.