Japan should (or shall) drop its absurd bid for permanent seat

Thursday, May 19 2005 @ 10:41 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

The Koizumi government's and the media's obsession with a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council has already causing a paralysis everywhere. It's that all too familiar paralysis the Japanese government spreads over, like a highly contagious disease, whenever it pokes its nose into an international affair.

For an understandable, and yet dubious, reason, the Japanese government has made known to the 191 member countries of the U.N. its aspiration for a UNSC permanent membership for quite sometime now. But the only party that are enthusiastic about Japan's UNSC bid is Kofi Annan aside from the Japan's government, its media lapdogs and 40-50% of the nation's general public.

If you dare to speak up before the media or the government and say, "I don't see why these people believe that it will bring about reform in the UNSC just to add our country to its current permanent members," their answer will be, in effect: "We believe that will certainly contribute to a U.N. reform because we are the world's second largest economy, and we are pacifists." You will hear a similar non sequitur if you dare to say, "I don't see why Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his people, as well as the media, still take it for granted that the Japan Post will be transformed into an effective and viable organization(s) if it's privatized and split up into four despite the failed attempts to reform the former Japan National Railways (1987), the former Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation (1985), etc., using the same formula."

It's true not a few people do oppose Koizumi's reform plans for the U.N. and the Japan Post but most of them are speaking against the reform plans for the wrong reasons: They don't like Koizumi's UNSC reform plan just because of the increased likelihood for Japan to get involved in military conflicts all over the world. They don't find his postal reform plan agreeable just out of the fear that job security will be in jeopardy. Therefore, even most of these opponents of Koizumi's reform plans would find your it almost outrageous if you touch on the core issue with the two reform plans.

These days the media take up the UNSC issue everyday without feeling obliged to spend a single word to answer this silly question: Exactly where/how Japan can contribute to the U.N. reform Kofi Annan is dying for. They admit, though, Japan is facing a formidable difficulty pursuing this unconvincing aspiration. As if the single most important factor causing this challenge isn't the fact that the Japanese government has never been able to articulate its U.N. reform plans very specifically, the mainstream media are single-mindedly discussing how to overcome this difficulty to secure two-thirds ay votes, or 128 in favor out of 191 member nations, and rub Hu Jintao the right way so he doesn't order his U.N. ambassador to veto.

As the local media admit, one of the sticking points is, however, Koizumi's "closest" friend George W. Bush's way of thinking. According to a report by the New York Times on May 15, anonymous U.S. government officials said, "(If Germany, India, Japan and Brazil were given permanent seats,) it might paralyze (already dysfunctional) UNSC." As is apparent from Mr. Bush's enthusiasm for having his nomination of John Bolton confirmed at the Congress, this way of thinking is fairly representative of the President's stance.

And Bush is absolutely right in considering the entire United Nations has been increasingly becoming irrelevant to the post-Cold War and post-9/11 geopolitical landscape. But now it's obvious the caring President has sent Koizumi a coded message to be decoded something like this: The U.S. might take the Japan's aspiration for a permanent membership seriously if Koizumi would be ready to live without a veto power. Needless to say, however, Bush is well aware that Japan would never exercise its veto power to whatever motion John Bolton would bring up before the council.

To reciprocate the Bush's half-hearted and conditional support, Koizumi is now trying hard to convince the other three of the G-4 nations that they should compromise on the veto power. The May 18 issue of the Daily Yomiuri reports that along these lines, Japan had insisted at a recent G-4 meeting in New York that the draft resolution, which was unveiled on May 16, should be reworded to accommodate the U.S. requirement. Initially the draft had said: "The new permanent members shall have the same veto rights as the current five members," according to the DY. But Japan proposed to insert the words "in principle" in that sentence and replace the "shall" with a "should." In response, disgusted Indian U.N. ambassador, Nirupam Sen, reportedly said he found it totally unacceptable to insert the modifier "in principle," adding that he couldn't care less, though, which auxiliary verb the draft resolution would use, shall or should.

Now it seems that Japan has already started spreading paralysis all over even before possibly being able to clinch a permanent seat. This is a typical way Japanese semanticists in the Foreign Ministry unnecessarily complicate the situation while always failing to put it in a broad perspective.

Now I have the impression that the U.S. would still be reluctant to give Japan a permanent seat even if it could somehow tame defiant Germany and India for the U.S. because Bush knows very well the Japanese always mess things up instead of straighten them out.

Back in 1994, Kofi Annan's predecessor Boutros-Ghali whispered a suggestion to then-Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa that Japan go solo to seek a permanent seat at the UNSC. Those are the days Japan's dollar diplomacy was still at work. But the former PM shied away from the prime seat the Secretary General was offering. The reason Miyazawa declined the offer is obvious: Japan was, and remain, a nation that can never act on its own. Going solo is always out of the question. Besides just like Koizumi, Miyazawa wasn't aware of the simple fact that on the international political scenes, the right timing would never come back later, once you missed it by saying, "Let me wait and see."

So it's all the more laughable to see 11 years after Japan passed up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Koizumi's Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura gather 116 Japanese ambassadors in Tokyo on May 16 in an unprecedented move to urge these envoys to make all-out efforts to persuade their respective host countries to support the Japan's bid. Japan has been able to buy (literally) support from 88 U.N. member nations thus far. But other 103 have remained uncommitted, or openly voiced their disapproval. And as Machimura reportedly warned, there is no guarantee that even these 88 nations won't make a last-minute aboutface. Believe it or not, calling for "all-out efforts" along these lines is what the 3-day meeting was all about, judging from newspaper reports.

It's noteworthy that in this country, making an all-out effort (issho-kenmei ganbaru) is always of utmost importance and what-for is not an issue at all. So it's no wonder Machimura's instruction did not include how exactly to make Japan's sales pitch about the U.N. reform convincing enough to the 116 nations, where these ambassadors are stationed. I even suspect Machimura may have instructed these envoys to dangle official development aid before developing countries in Africa and Asia. The Foreign Minister didn't touch on the core issue just because he didn't have the slightest idea what he was talking about when parroting the word "reform."

John Bolton once said to the effect that if you removed the top 10 stories from the U.N. Headquarters Building, you wouldn't be missing much. My interpretation of his nasty, but accurate, remark is that he wanted to say the United Nations is now following its path to a complete irrelevance to the post-Cold War era. In this context the worst case scenario we may be seeing in the near future is the one in which a Japan's U.N. ambassador sits alongside of his Chinese counterpart at the UNSC, and outside of the now paralysis-ridden council he is proposing to add, instead of remove, 10 floors on top of the 34-story building that now houses an almost unreformable United Nations. If and when this materializes, the U.N. will have totally outgrown its raison d'etre.

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