Japan’s bid for permanent U.N. Security Council seat crumbling

OSAMU KAWAKAMI – The Yomiuri Shimbun

Copyright – The Yomiuri Shimbun
TOKYO – (KRT) – Japan’s bid for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council appears to be in jeopardy as the government has failed to persuade the United States – the most influential U.N. member – to support or at least not to block the so-called Group of Four’s plan for the council’s expansion.
Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura’s first reaction to learning of the U.S. position was, “It’s so unexpected.” This is what he told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in his telephone conversation with her Thursday night, about two hours before the State Department announced its U.N. reform plan.
According to sources, Rice told Machimura to examine the U.S. statement and not to be hasty in submitting the resolution prepared by the G-4 – Japan, Brazil, Germany and India – to the U.N. General Assembly.
Japan has worked since May with its G-4 partners, who all aspire for permanent membership of the Security Council, on the resolution calling for the council’s combined membership of permanent and nonpermanent members to be increased from 15 to 25.
While drafting the resolution, Japan also worked behind the scenes to gain the United States’ support or at least understanding for the resolution.
But the U.S. answer, as announced Thursday by Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, was “only an embarrassment for us,” according to a government source.
Burns, though he reiterated Washington’s support for Japan’s permanent membership, said the number of new permanent members should be limited to two, while the G-4 plan calls for six.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi responded to the U.S. announcement by expressing his concern that it was intended to split the G-4.
“Japan can’t buy this (U.S.) proposal. We must stick to the cooperation among the G-4 and the four countries must stand together,” Koizumi told reporters Friday.
Another government source, however, was pessimistic about maintaining the G-4 position.
“As the United States doesn’t want to see the European Union getting more say on the international stage, Germany’s permanent membership, at least, was out of the question for Washington. Berlin must have been shocked by the U.S. announcement, and the G-4 may end up in disarray,” the source said.
As to why Washington made the announcement at this juncture, a senior Foreign Ministry official cited the mounting opposition in the United States to Security Council expansion.
“The dominant view in the U.S. Congress, as well as among the public, is against the expansion as the process in the Security Council may become more complicated and the council may end up less effective. The U.S. government, therefore, needed to prevent the G-4 plan from proceeding,” the official said.
The administration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton called for an expansion in the council to 21 or more members, but the number in the latest U.S. proposal was scaled back to “19 or 20.”
Japan’s diplomatic efforts in attempting to convince the United States on the need for council expansion appear to have borne little or no fruit.
The government says it will stick to the G-4 framework, seeking more support for the resolution the four countries are preparing while at the same time lobbying the United States for its understanding.
But the gap between the U.S. and G-4 plans is so wide that it will be extremely difficult to reach an agreement. The United States is more concerned about streamlining the world body’s Secretariat rather than changing the Security Council.
The U.S. proposal also is likely to boost the group of countries that have opposed the G-4 plan, including China, Italy and South Korea.
“If the G-4 resolution loses momentum and fails to gain more support, we may as well think about starting with a clean slate, working on a new plan together with the United States toward this autumn,” when the U.N. reforms will be debated in earnest, a government source said.
The government is now awaiting the outcome of the 53-member African Union summit meeting on July 4 and 5 in Sirte, Libya, as the first important test for the G-4.
“We’d like to see what kind of position the AU, which has 53 votes in the U.N. General Assembly, will express on Security Council reform, upon examining the latest U.S. proposal. That will be an important factor as we make our own decision about how to proceed,” a government source said.

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