Photo/IllutrationMaaike Benese, right, of NGO Pax, listens to a question from a reporter at a news conference in Tokyo on May 23. At left is Firoz Alizada of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). (Rei Kishitsu)

Four Japanese financial institutions have invested in or loaned money to cluster bomb manufacturers, despite Japan being a signatory to the treaty that regulates the weapons, the international nongovernmental organization Pax revealed.

Maaike Benese of Pax said the group plans to call on the Japanese government to ban the investments or loans because those practices mean effective participation in wars.

The four Japanese financial institutions are Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), which invested or loaned $914 million during the past four years; Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG) with $606 million; Orix Corp. with $354 million; and Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. with $40 million.

The Netherlands-based NGO, which takes its name from the Latin for peace, announced the finding at a news conference in Tokyo on May 23.

From June 2013 to March this year, Pax looked into transactions by a total of six major cluster bomb manufacturers based in the United States, China and South Korea.

It found that 166 financial institutions throughout the world had invested or loaned $31 billion (about 3.4 trillion yen) in total to the six makers over the past four years.

Of those institutions, the largest share, 85, are located in the United States, followed by 30 in China, 27 in South Korea, five in Taiwan and four in Japan.

The United States, China, South Korea and Taiwan have not signed the cluster bomb-regulating treaty.

A source said that more than 50,000 people have been killed or injured by cluster bombs worldwide; 90 percent of them civilians.

Each cluster bomb contains smaller bomblets whose numbers range from dozens to several hundreds. After the bomb is dropped from aircraft, the bomblets are scattered around, causing damage across a wide area. What’s more, many bomblets pose a grave danger by remaining unexploded on the ground.

About 100 countries or regions have signed the treaty, prohibiting them from using and producing cluster bombs. In addition, they are banned from “assisting" on the matter.

However, interpretations of the treaty are divided on whether assistance includes investments in or loans to cluster bomb makers. Japanese law does not carry stipulations on the assistance.

MUFG and SMFG said they prohibit extending loans to the business of manufacturing cluster bombs.

The two firms said, however, that they could not answer questions about individual transactions when asked if they can invest in or extend loans to companies that have a division in charge of the cluster bomb business.

Orix also refused to comment on individual transactions. Meanwhile, Dai-ichi Life Insurance admitted Pax’s finding is accurate.

“Financial institutions will be criticized as lacking ethics if they continue to be involved in cluster bomb makers by making narrow interpretations that they can invest in or extend loans to businesses that are not directly related to cluster bomb manufacturing,” said Motoko Mekata, a professor of international political science at Chuo University, who serves as director of the Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines (JCBL).

Mekata added: "It is important for depositors to pay attention to the way their money is invested."

(This article was written by Naotaka Fujita and Shuichi Yutaka, a senior staff writer.)