Projecting himself as the leader of a resurgent and more outgoing Japan
, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used his United Nations speech on Tuesday to announce a vast increase in aid to people uprooted by mayhem in the Middle East.
Mr. Abe told the General Assembly during the annual speech session that Japan would provide about $810 million in assistance to refugees and internally displaced people in Syria and Iraq
this year, about triple the amount from last year.
He also announced about $750 million in assistance, including money to pay for water systems in Iraq and other projects “to help build peace and fully ensure this peace across the Middle East and Africa
.” Mr. Abe did not offer to host displaced people.
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.”
At the General Assembly, Mr. Abe alluded to the politically delicate legislative change he successfully pushed through this month to authorize overseas combat missions for the military.
The change overturns Japan’s longstanding postwar policy on the use of force only for self-defense, and has been viewed with mistrust by the country’s Asian neighbors who were once subjugated by the Japanese.
In his speech, however, Mr. Abe framed the change as the opposite of a belligerent move, saying Japan can now “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, along with Brazil
, Germany and India
. They have long been advocating changes in the 15-member Security Council that would enable them to become permanent members.
Mr. Abe reiterated the Group of Four’s position at a news conference on Tuesday evening, telling reporters these countries want a Security Council reform “that befits the 21st century.”
The Council is composed of 10 nonpermanent members and five permanent members — Britain
and the United States
— which have veto power over any resolution. The Council is the only part of the United Nations that can authorize military force.
Mr. Abe’s speech at the United Nations was devoid of references to Japan’s domestic challenges, notably an aging population and declining birthrate, which slipped to a record low in 2014 and raises serious questions about the country’s economic future. It was, however, an important topic earlier in the day at the Bloomberg forum. “We will give substantially more support to those mothers and fathers that bear many children,” he said.
By some estimates, 40 percent of Japan’s population could be 65 or older by 2060.