Japan to pledge $10 mil in aid for Syrian refugees

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to unveil in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in late September a plan to provide over $10 million in additional humanitarian aid to help Syrian refugees in the wake of a poison gas attack on civilians in the Middle East country, government sources said Wednesday.

Amid the receding prospect of an imminent U.S. military intervention in Syria, the move reflects Japan's willingness to help achieve a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis and support a U.S.-Russian agreement that requires Syria to hand over chemical weapons to international control.

The fresh aid would come on top of around $95 million Japan has already extended to Syria via international organizations and nongovernmental organizations, bringing the total amount to more than $100 million.

In the speech, Abe is expected to call on the Syrian government to act in line with the U.S.-Russian agreement and express Japan's support for efforts by countries and international organizations to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria again, according to the sources.

Abe is also likely to express Japan's determination to help stop violence and improve the severe humanitarian situation in Syria, they said.

According to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq has now exceeded 2 million, of whom about 700,000 are 10 years old or younger.

U.N. inspectors have concluded that sarin nerve gas was used on civilians in the Aug. 21 attack that the U.S. government said killed more than 1,400 people.

Syria has decided to accept a deal struck by the United States and Russia to place its chemical weapons under international supervision. Under the deal, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will inspect facilities linked to chemical weapons in Syria.

Abe is likely to say that Japan will continue to support OPCW activities as Tokyo assigns Self-Defense Forces personnel to the Hague-based organization.

Aside from the speech at the U.N., the prime minister plans to give two other speeches during the U.S. visit -- one on the economy and the other on security, the sources said.

Abe is likely to encourage foreign investors in a meeting on Wall Street to increase investment in Japan, now that Tokyo has been selected to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, an event that is seen as a driving force to pull the country out of the deflation-mired economy.

He is expected to talk at the Hudson Institute, a U.S. think tank, on security issues such as the governmental debate on whether Japan should lift its self-imposed ban on collective self-defense, or coming to the defense of an ally under armed attack, and the creation of a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council.