Japan has pledged $4 billion in aid and debt forgiveness for Africa at an international development conference in Tokyo.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi says his country would give a billion dollars in aid to Africa at the opening session of a major conference on development issues on the continent.

He says Japan wants to further its dialogue with the African people on how to build a society that is free from the threats of poverty, war, and infectious disease.

The latest injection of funds will be disbursed over five years for several projects, including supplying clean drinking water, vaccinating children, and building schools.

Tokyo will also cancel $3 billion in debts from poor African nations and earmark $300 million for investment in Africa. Japan recently cut its foreign aid budget, but the new initiatives mean Tokyo will remain Africa's top foreign aid donor.

In the past decade, Japan has given $12 billion in assistance to the continent.

The three-day conference, called the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, brings together representatives from nearly 50 African countries and 34 international organizations including the World Bank.

Japan hosted two other TICAD summits in 1993 and 1998. Africa continues to struggle with major obstacles to development, including the spread of AIDS and political instability.