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AP report -- Japan closer to UN security council seat. [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2005-5-23 15:48:01 |Display all floors
Many forces are calling for UN reform, many of these have competing agendas.

Japan Closer to Getting U.N. Seat

Published: May 23, 2005
Filed at 2:40 a.m. ET

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's leaders feel it's payback time.

Tokyo has been footing more than its share of the United Nations' bill for an awful long time, they say, and it has dutifully sent thousands of its troops abroad in support of eight U.N. peacekeeping operations. So, they conclude, Japan has earned a permanent seat on the Security Council.

And, after a huge lobbying effort, Japan might be just a veto away from getting one.

Japan's quest for a Security Council seat isn't new. Tokyo has pushed its case for more than a decade.

Now, however, Japan has joined Brazil, Germany and India on a draft resolution that would expand the Security Council from 15 to 25 members and give the four countries and two African nations permanent seats. The four claim to have the support of 120 U.N. members, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said he wants a decision before September.

''Reform of the Security Council has been discussed for more than a decade now, and the time is ripe for action,'' Kenzo Oshima, Japan's U.N. representative, told the General Assembly last month. ''Japan will thus spare no effort in working with other member states to achieve that end.''

The campaign has become Japan's top political priority.

Everyone from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on down to the bureaucrats in Japan's foreign ministry have joined in the unusually strenuous and high-profile lobbying effort. Visiting dignitaries have been pressed for support, and ambassadors from around the world were recalled to Tokyo this week for, among other things, a briefing on how to present Japan's case.

The timing has never been better.

A growing number of the 191 U.N. member states are expressing dissatisfaction with the body's structure. There is particularly strong support for an overhaul of the Security Council, which consists of five permanent members -- the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain -- who have veto rights, and another 10 non-permanent members chosen regionally for two-year terms.

Japan's proposal with Brazil, Germany and India would add six permanent seats -- two from Asia, one from Latin America, one from Western Europe, and two from Africa. It would also add four non-permanent seats -- one from Africa, one from Asia, one from Eastern Europe and one from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The proposal says the Security Council, formed in wake of World War II, is ill-equipped to represent today's political realities and should open its meetings, hold frequent briefings for nonmembers and consult regularly with other U.N. bodies.

The four countries aren't the only ones unhappy with the council.

A rival proposal championed by Pakistan, Italy and South Korea would create a new tier of eight semi-permanent members -- two each from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas -- who would serve for four years, subject to renewal, plus one non-permanent seat.

Tokyo may have a powerful -- though somewhat guarded -- ally in the United States.

''We have stated flatly that Japan ought to be part of the Security Council,'' U.S. Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer said last month in his first news conference since assuming the post. ''Beyond that, I think we have to let the negotiations take their course.''

But Japan has a big problem in its backyard.

Japan recently angered China by defending official visits to a controversial war shrine and approving textbooks that play down Japan's World War II conquests in Asia.

China has indicated it will not support a seat for Japan, and Beijing's veto power could be a deal-breaker.

''Any hasty decisions on the council's expansion will only inflame rifts and thus would be detrimental to all member states and the process of the world body's reform,'' the China Daily said in an editorial this week. ''The reform, which is expected to herald a new future of the U.N., will not be easy.''

Nevertheless, Japanese leaders say their argument -- and financial support -- is too important to brush aside.

Without Japanese funds, the United Nations would likely collapse.

After the United States, Japan is the second-largest contributor to the U.N. regular budget, pumping in $346.4 million this year, or nearly 20 percent. It is also the second-largest contributor to the various U.N. funds and agencies and the fifth-largest financial backer of its peacekeeping operations.

Japan has joined in eight U.N. peacekeeping operations, from Cambodia to the Golan Heights, sending a total 4,600 troops.

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