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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #243: August 27, 2004

Japan's UN Ambitions Legally Unfounded

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan's UN Ambitions Legally Unfounded"
China Daily


The article denounces the idea of Japan becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council by saying that Japan's own constitution prohibits it from playing such a roll in the UN. It is interesting for the Chinese to lecture Japan's constitution, but obviously this is not an academic thesis. It must be noted that everything Chinese media reports is under close scrutiny by their government, so what is reported at least does not contradict with their government's stance, if not that it is in fact the government's view.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he will tell the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 21 that Japan seeks a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

The response to this announcement among Japan's public has been dull at best. It could be the summer heat or the Olympics, but more likely it might be a reflection of fatigue over tedious discussions over years, or decades, on how Japan should perform in the global community as a good international citizen.

It had been the general impression among Japanese people in the past that by diligently attending the UN, the global institution, set up to guarantee a peaceful world while endeavoring to promote better life for every humankind, would gradually achieve its goals. It was a naive proposition, but it seemed to work, or at least it could hold on, until people began to acknowledge the reality, and then were disillusioned.

There are not many in Japan who explicitly advocate withdrawing from the UN, but some are beginning to suggest refusing payment of assessed contributions to the organization, as it seems to be the only effective clout in having Japan, a country without nuclear armament, to be heard.

In fact, Mr. Koizumi's statement is not out of ambition, but out of frustration, reflecting the feeling of Japanese people. Aside from a vague dissatisfaction, there are specific issues that have been irritating those concerned.

Japan currently shoulders 20% of UN budget. To put things in perspective, the list of permanent members of the Security Council goes like this. US: 22%, UK: 5.5%, France: 6.5%, China: 1.5%, and Russia: 1.2%. The TOTAL of four member countries, excluding the US, amounts to less than 15%, which is, needless to point out, significantly less than the 22% Japan bears. While fully realizing that the amount of the contribution is, and should, not be the sole factor, Japanese people question if they are treated equitably within reasonable tolerance margin.

Another issue is the so-called "enemy clause" stipulated in the UN Charter. This is referred to in Articles 53 and 107 which, in effect, provides that any country deemed to be attacked by "any state which during the Second World War has been an enemy of any signatory of the present Charter" could take countermeasures on its own, contrary to the general provision that such action would require an authorization by the Security Council. The Charter does not state any names of the "states" but it seems a consensus that Japan is included among other countries such as Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Finland. It is understandable, as the Charter was drafted while WWII was still going on, and it is obvious that it has no practical significance now, but the inaction by the UN (members) to eliminate such discriminatory clause until the present day has disenchanted Japanese people.

In short, Japanese people are frustrated because, despite so much contribution in terms of money or otherwise have been committed to the UN, in the spirit of that "pacifist" constitution, the World does not seem to be faring well, if not worsening.

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