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Saturday, June 18, 2005


Japan rejects U.S. plan for U.N. reform

Staff writer

Japan rejected a U.S. proposal on United Nations reform Friday despite receiving support for its quest to become a permanent member of the powerful U.N. Security Council.

Washington proposed Thursday expanding the number of permanent seats on the council from five to seven, with one for Japan.

The U.S. plan, however, would water down the agenda of the so-called Group of Four -- Japan, Germany, India and Brazil -- which wants six new permanent seats for a total of 11.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Friday that Tokyo would not back the U.S. proposal.

"It is good for Japan, but not for other nations of the G-4," Koizumi told reporters. "The four G-4 countries have to cooperate with each other and stand united."

Koizumi's remarks apparently reflect growing suspicions within the government that the U.S. is trying to drive a wedge between Japan and the rest of the G-4 to slow international momentum toward UNSC expansion.

In New York, the G-4 ambassadors to the U.N. gathered Thursday to show they remain committed to their goal of getting permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council together.

Under Washington's proposals, "two or so" new permanent members without veto rights and two or three rotating members would be added to the UNSC.

These new members will be chosen based on certain criteria, including past financial contributions to the U.N., military capacity and economic size.

At a news conference in Washington, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns repeated his government's support for Japan's bid to become a permanent UNSC member.

But many experts were skeptical of the U.S. plan.

Yasuhiko Yoshida, a professor of international relations at Osaka University of Economics and Law, said the U.S. is trying to block the passage of the G-4's resolution, which aims to expand the UNSC by six permanent and four nonpermanent seats.

"There is no chance that the U.S. proposal will gain the support of two-thirds of U.N. member states (as is required) because most of the developing countries will be against it," Yoshida said.

This makes it all the more clear that Washington wants to scrap the idea of U.N. reform altogether, Yoshida said.

Yoshida stressed the need for the G-4 to maintain solidarity and lay the groundwork to ensure passage of their resolution by September's U.N. General Assembly.

Despite such concerns, the Foreign Ministry is treading carefully to avoid portraying itself as clashing with the U.S. -- Japan's strongest ally on the UNSC expansion issue.

Washington's backing is especially critical for Japan because China, another permanent UNSC member, has indicated reluctance toward Tokyo getting a permanent berth.

At a regular news conference Friday, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said he was grateful to Washington for naming Japan as a candidate for a permanent seat and added that Tokyo hopes to cooperate with the U.S. on the matter.

But he also said Japan cannot break away from the G-4 framework and ally itself with the U.S. "right away."

"We are still in the early stages of the campaign," said one senior Foreign Ministry official, who asked not to be named. "Any revision or change of strategy is possible in the next few months."

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The Japan Times

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