Japan’s three largest banks said on Friday they would refrain from financing the manufacture of cluster bombs, two days before an international convention against the munitions comes into force.
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG), Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) and Mizuho Bank said they had stated in their regulations they would deny loans and investments for the productions of the munitions.
Clusters bombs release hundreds of smaller bomblets over wide areas which can continue to maim and kill civilians long after a conflict ends, with many of the victims children who mistake the bomblets for toys.
The international ban, now signed by 107 countries, enters into force on Sunday, six months after it was ratified by 30 nations.
Major military powers however, including the United States, China, Russia and Israel, which are thought to account for the bulk of the estimated one billion bomblet global stockpile, have rejected the treaty so far.
Activist group the Cluster Munitions Coalition has said the financial services industry had provided about $US43 billion in investments or services to makers of the lethal munitions since May 2007.
Japan’s three megabanks have promised they would stay clear of the trade.
A Mizuho spokesman said: “The bank has long banned loans and investments for businesses for non-humanitarian purposes or against social justice.
“Since the international convention on cluster bombs will come into force on August 1, we have issued a statement for our dealers this month that the bank is against financing such businesses, including creating cluster munitions.”
An MUFG spokesman said: “The bank has a principle of not financing arms production or organised crime groups. We clarified our stance specifically against making cluster bombs in February last year.”
However, the spokesman said that the ban applied only to projects of arms production, not the companies themselves. “One company, involved in making cluster bombs, may well have non-military businesses,” said the MUFG spokesman.
© 2010 AFP