Once again about Japan's bid for permanent seat

Tuesday, October 05 2004 @ 12:19 PM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

Last week this blog ran a poll over whether to give Japan a permanent seat at the UNSC. The vast majority of voters said, "No", "Don't know", or "Couldn't care less" and not a single person answered in the affirmative. Perhaps the poll privately-run on a blog like ours with a mere 160 people casting their casual votes didn't serve as a reliable indicator. But at least outside this nation, there are very few people who are in favor of the Japan's bid for the UNSC seat even after the Japan's PM addressed the U.N. General Assembly on September 21.

As I wrote in my September 25 piece ("Koizumi's bid for permanent seat at UNSC"), Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi failed to make his case. He stumbled over the two sticking points: 1) Japan's ability to fulfill the role as a permanent member at the UNSC under the constitutional constraint back home, and 2) why an expansion is believed to lead to a reform of the UNSC automatically.

Today's Daily Yomiuri carries yet another article that reports support for the Japan's bid, as well as Germany's, has gathered momentum ("Support growing for expansion of UNSC" by DY correspondent Makoto Katsuta). Like any other article that's appeared in a Japanese newspaper to date, the DY's lengthy report gets around the real issue: why a mere expansion can automatically lead to the much-talked-about reform. It seems as though the major news media in Japan consider it to be their primary mission to chant along the same abracadabra to the government. It's almost taboo here to question this particular point.

According to this article, as many as 149 countries, or 78% of the 191 members of the U.N., are in favor of a U.N. reform. (Who wouldn't?) But only 85 nations, or 45% of the U.N. member countries, or 57% of those who are in favor of reform, find it advisable to increase the number of permanent and nonpermanent seats. This 45% represents a significant jump from last year's 23%, the DY stresses.

So the number of supporting nations is on the rise. And we are sure U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is buying into Japan's obscure bid because Annan, like Koizumi, is a person who is totally incapable of initiating or scrutinizing any reform measure on the level. Annan did not know whether to take it seriously when Libya started showing interest in gaining a permanent UNSC seat for the African Union. We may be seeing, in the not-too-distant future, Al-Qaida demanding one on the grounds that it will contribute to the reform of the international body, unless we quickly re-define what exactly we are aiming at when talking about the U.N. reform..

Back in 1997 Razali Ismail, who presided over the U.N. General Assembly then, proposed increasing the number of permanent members by five and nonpermanent members by four. The former president of the U.N. General Assembly suggested at that time that Japan and other four countries should be given the permanent seats without veto rights. The "no veto rights" part of the Razali plan was, and remains, the reason Japan has bought into it while still feeling at ease.

In the meantime, as Makoto Katsuta reports, Italy has also been trying to align dozens of countries behind it to block the Japanese and German bids. To that end Italy has formed what is dubbed the "Coffee Club" in which it's been trying to talk the club members out of supporting Japanese and Germans, rather successfully. But now Japan is fighting back by forming a "Sake Club", according to Katsuta, to counter the Italian offensive.

The DY report leaves us wondering what to make of all this fuss over espresso versus sake. Obviously these gentlemen, Koizumi, Annan and the DY correspondent alike, had better shut their mouths until they can articulate exactly what sort of reform they are talking about.

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