Japan paid reparations to the Philippines


After the end of the Cold War, Japanese foreign policy endeavored to implement a new, more independent foreign policy that was less oriented towards American objectives. The most important tasks that Japan has set itself include international peacekeeping and measures for global environmental protection.

The Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and US President Barack Obama in Haiti in 2011. (& copy picture-alliance / AP)


Japan's foreign policy since 1945 has essentially been based on the USA as the only military alliance and most important economic partner. The role of the United States as a protecting power is all the more important for Japanese security as Article 9 of its constitution only allows the country to defend itself with limited human and material resources. The refusal to manufacture and station nuclear weapons is also one of the iron principles of Japanese foreign policy after the atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In relation to the armies of the communist neighbors China, North Korea and the Soviet Union, which were equipped with nuclear warheads, the US nuclear protective shield was therefore indispensable for Japanese security, especially during the Cold War.

The stationing of American armed forces on Japanese territory and the limitation of the Japanese armed forces still fulfill an important function even after the end of the Cold War. They signal and guarantee the neighboring Asian states, which suffered under Japanese occupation during the Pacific War, that the largest economic power in the region no longer poses a military threat today. For the US, the defense pact with Japan is the backbone of its Asian policy.

In addition to the military alliance with the USA, a concept of "comprehensive security" developed by Japan is one of the foundations of foreign policy. It is based on the conviction that states with close economic ties do not enter into armed conflicts with one another because they would both suffer excessive losses. The most important means of this comprehensive security policy are funds from official development assistance (ODA: Official Development Assistance). The founding of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), in which Japan played a major role, supports this concept.

International responsibility

After the end of the Cold War, Japanese foreign policy endeavors to formulate and implement a new, more independent foreign policy that is less oriented towards American objectives. Among the most important tasks that Japan has set itself are international peacekeeping, the promotion of global prosperity through economic progress and the liberalization of world trade as well as measures for global environmental protection.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Japan has also endeavored to take on a stronger role in promoting regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and to increase its own involvement in international organizations, particularly the UN. The use of the Japanese self-defense forces for peacekeeping measures by the UN has meanwhile become a matter of course. Japan's financial commitment to international organizations in the first half of the 1990s was greater than that of any other country in the world and, together with the peacekeeping measures, legitimized the country's application for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Development Assistance

State development aid, ODA, is one of the most important instruments of Japanese foreign policy. Since 1991, the country has been the world's largest government development aid donor in absolute terms. In 1995 the funds made available for this amounted to more than 14 billion US dollars. According to the ODA charter adopted in 1992, the funds for technical and economic cooperation with developing countries are used to pursue the following goals:
  • Global disarmament: No support for arms exports or the allocation of development aid to states with a high armament budget.

  • Coordination of environmental protection and economic development.

  • Promotion of the free market economy.

  • Promotion of democracy and human rights.
The freezing of part of the funds earmarked for the PRC in 1994 in response to Chinese atomic bomb tests can be cited as an example of the use of development aid as a means against nuclear armament. The fight against poverty, AIDS, birth control measures and global environmental protection are also currently some of the greatest challenges facing Japanese development aid policy.

More than 80 percent of the Japanese funds have so far flowed into neighboring East Asian countries, with considerable sums being spent on expanding the infrastructure. In total, Japanese development aid financed the following up to 1994:
  • Indonesia
    • 12% of the rail system.
    • 15% of all expressways.
    • 30% of all electricity generators.
  • Philippines
    • 5% of all electricity generators.
    • 10% of all national roads that can be driven all year round.
    • 11% of all telephone circuitry outside of Manila.
  • Thailand
    • 16% of the installed electricity.
    • A high percentage of the transportation system including Bangkok International Airport and eight central bridges.
    • 5% of all telephone circuits in the capital.
  • Malaysia
    • 46% of all electricity capacity on the Malaysian Peninsula.
    • 92% of all electricity capacity in Saba state.
    • 98% of all electricity capacity in the state of Sarawak.
    • 20% of all expressways.
According to Japanese estimates, these investments have contributed significantly to the rapid economic development of the region. They often brought about the settlement of foreign companies - especially from Japan - which in turn made a significant contribution to industrialization. As a result of this concerted commitment by state development aid and private industry, a permanent increase in the level of education and living conditions in the states had been achieved. Since the development goal in this region has now been largely achieved, Japanese development aid policy is trying to get more involved in other regions of the world, especially in Africa and Latin America.

In the past, Japanese development aid policy has often been criticized by other development aid donor states and by non-governmental development aid organizations for failing to take sufficient account of a number of internationally recognized standards. Only a small part of the funds goes to the poorest countries in the world. Most of the Japanese funds are given in the form of loans at low interest rates, so that the share of donations is considerably lower than that of most other donor countries. Technical assistance, which above all includes the training of skilled workers in developing countries and is therefore classified as particularly valuable in the long term, traditionally also has a lower priority for Japanese ODA than, for example, for European development aid donors.

In contrast, the focus of Japanese development aid cooperation was on the financing of large-scale projects. This has historical and economic reasons. The reparations made during the 1950s are seen as the beginning of the economic cooperation between Japan and its East Asian neighbors. These were paid for in the form of deliveries of goods produced by Japanese industry at government expense.

Development aid was organized along the same lines. It had a stimulating effect on the Japanese economy and also secured the raw material supply urgently needed for Japan's further industrial development. State development aid in Japan was thus based from the start on a strong economic self-interest that was sought to combine with the development ambitions of the recipient countries. The system of allocation of funds in Japan was based on close cooperation between the state and business.

Since then, the international economic and political framework has changed considerably, and Japanese development aid policy is now also trying to meet the international quality standards and the objectives formulated in 1992.