Japan will pay the salaries of Afghanistan's 80,000 police officers for six months as part of its ongoing financial support for the country, a government official said on Tuesday. Tokyo will also fund the building of 200 schools and 100 hospitals, and train thousands of teachers in Afghanistan, said Foreign Ministry official Miyako Watanabe.
The projects will be funded out of the $520 million remaining in the funds pledged by Tokyo to help rebuild the country's infrastructure, Watanabe said. Japan has already spent $1.48 billion of the $2 billion it has pledged since 2002.
News of Japan's latest assistance in the region comes as Tokyo and Washington continue to strengthen their long-standing alliance. Prime Minister Taro Aso, who has said building better ties with the US is one of his administration's goals, is in Washington, where he will become the first foreign leader to meet President Barack Obama in the White House. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made Tokyo the first stop on her Asian tour. Obama has made stabilizing Afghanistan a priority, approving a troop surge of 17,000 troops in the conflict-ridden country. Japan's pacifist constitution, along with the public's strong aversion to sending troops into combat, prohibits it from taking direct military action.
But the country has a large military, and despite political gridlock and a deepening recession, remains the world's second-largest economy, often using its wealth to influence affairs on the world stage.
Last year, the country approved legislation to extend through January 2010 a refueling mission in support of US-led operations in the Indian Ocean. The mission, which began in 2001 and has been briefly suspended due to political opposition, partially supports US forces in Afghanistan.