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Friday, July 8, 2005


Why is Japan so impatient to land a permanent seat in the UNSC club?

Staff writer

Japan moved a step closer toward its goal of becoming a permanent United Nations Security Council member Thursday, as the so-called Group of Four nations -- Japan, Germany, India and Brazil -- submitted a resolution on the matter to the U.N. Secretariat. The following are some basic facts on the UNSC bid:

Why does Japan want to be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council?

The five current permanent members -- the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China -- have been in place since the U.N. was established in 1945.

Japan argues that the so-called P5 setup fails to "reflect the reality of the international society in the 21st century." It also believes that, as the second-largest donor to the U.N., it is qualified to become a permanent UNSC member.

In short, Japan aspires to get closer to the core of the decision-making process of the world's largest international organization, where many resolutions that may influence its interests are adopted.

For example, when a U.N. resolution is drafted, it is first circulated among the P5, then among the 10 nonpermanent members of the Security Council, which are selected on a rotation basis. If a nation is not in either category, diplomats must ask Security Council members to get a copy of the document, delaying possible input or a counterargument by Japan.

The need to have a permanent seat on the Security Council was keenly felt in Japan after the 1991 Gulf War, when Japanese diplomats encountered difficulty in grasping the council's moves in the leadup to its authorization of military action by multinational forces against Iraq.

How much does Japan contribute to the U.N., and would this financial burden increase if it became a permanent member of the Security Council?

Japan is the second-largest contributor to the U.N. after the U.S. In 2004, Japan provided about $280 million, or 19.5 percent, of the U.N. budget and shelled out another $530 million for U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Tokyo's contribution to the regular U.N. budget will remain unchanged regardless of its status vis-a-vis the Security Council, as the figure is decided in accordance with the scale of a nation's economy.

But the money it pumps into peacekeeping operations is likely to increase, since permanent members of the UNSC "bear responsibility for the peace and security of the international society," according to Foreign Ministry officials.

In January, however, a U.N. panel report urged Japan to expand its foreign aid if it wants to get a permanent UNSC seat.

The report stated that Japan should be prepared to contribute foreign aid equal to 0.7 percent of its gross national income by 2015. In 2003, Japan allocated about $8.8 billion in foreign aid, just 0.2 percent of its GNI. Tokyo has pledged continued efforts to achieve the 0.7 percent target.

Is expanding the UNSC the only item on the U.N. reform agenda?

No. A March report on U.N. reform unveiled by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan also touched on reform relating to human rights, development assistance, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

In an effort to show that Japan is not only interested in UNSC reform, Tokyo released a paper last month on proposals for wide-ranging U.N. reforms, from assistance to Africa and other developing nations to the nonproliferation of WMD.

It also calls on the U.N. to revise the "enemy clause" in the U.N. Charter.

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