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Why does the Japanese government often alter its course of action under pressure from the United States, even when doing so apparently undermines Japan's own interests? Japan's marked responsiveness to US preferences regarding foreign aid policy appears counterintuitive, since Japan's demonstrated capability to donate fund rivals and has previously surpassed that of the US. This work posits that Japan's deference to the will of the US results from Japan's continuing role as the more dependent partner in the two countries' interdependent diplomatic and economic relationship. The text critically reviews the existing literature on Japanese foreign aid, then tests its own argument against five case studies. After analysing critical junctures in Japan's history of foreign aid to China, Vietnam, Russia, Iran and North Korea, it concludes that Japan's consistent sway under US opinion reflects an act of will on Japan's part, rather than a lack of coherent policy stemming from bureaucratic politics. It challenges arguments that Japan has successfully distanced itself from "reactive" politics.