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Home > Special Topics > Social Trends Last Updated: 15:18 03/09/2007
Social Trends #121: July 25, 2005

Japan's Quest for a Permanent UN Security Council Seat: Part Six - UN Security Council Reform Timeline for June 2005

J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times)

A full list of articles in this series can be found here.

June was a difficult month for Japan and the rest of the G-4 (India, Germany and Brazil) in their increasingly uphill campaign to gain permanent seats on the UN Security Council (UNSC). The G-4 issued a new draft proposal for UNSC reform in which they modified their original stance on veto rights. They now envisage any new permanent member only obtaining a veto 15 years after being admitted instead of immediately.

June also saw the US outlined its own UNSC reform proposals in which permanent seats increase by only about two, a blow to G-4 hopes. However, the US did declare its support for Japan's bid.

The G-4 postponed submission of its resolution to the UN as it became uncertain what stance the 53-member African Union (AU) would take to its proposal. AU support is considered vital if the G-4 is to break the 128-vote barrier needed for its resolution to be adopted. The month ended with momentum slipping away from the G-4.

UN Security Council Reform Timeline for June 2005

3 June 2005 - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura to try to modify the G-4 reform plan. Rice also asked Tokyo to delay submission of the G4 resolution. Washington has indicated it is unhappy about enlarging the Security Council because it believes it would weaken its own influence within the UN and make consensus-building harder. Diplomatic sources say the US is generally negative about the G-4's UNSC expansion proposal. However, it is claimed Washington remains committed to supporting Japan's bid to obtain a permanent UNSC seat.

Japanese diplomats consider Rice's comments a big setback for Tokyo's bid and her request is forcing Japan to revise its strategy. Tokyo had been banking on strong US backing to drum up support amongst Asian and African nations for the G-4's bid. Tokyo calculated that if it won the backing of enough nations, Beijing would find it difficult to oppose overwhelming international opinion.

- France, which broadly supports the G-4's stance, called on the four nations to make some revisions to the draft resolution.

- Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Wang Guanga said, "Most of the permanent members at the UN Security Council feel they [the G-4] is overhasty."

5 June 2005 - An editorial in the Yomiuri Shimbun said: "For years, Japan has greatly contributed to the United Nations, as demonstrated by its donations to the global body, which exceed the total amount given by Britain, China, France and Russia. Japan should hold nothing back in urging other U.N. members to support its bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council."

6 June 2005 - Machimura cancelled a trip to Nigeria where he was to have attended an African Union meeting. The visit was called off after the AU withdrew its invitation to the G-4, apparently because of pressure from China and other countries opposing the G-4's UNSC proposal.

7 June 2005 - Foreign Minister Machimura signalled a slowing of G-4 momentum and said before moving forward Tokyo needs to assess the reactions to the G-4 resolution from various nations, particularly the 53-member African Union. He said, "The African Union summit will be held in early July and African nations have asked us to wait until then to submit our resolution." He added, "We will decide on the appropriate timing to submit the resolution after judging those moves and reactions from other nations."

It appears the positions of African and Caribbean nations will be a key factor in the success or failure of the G-4 proposal. The 14-member Caribbean Community will hold a summit on 1 July. The Yomiuri Shimbun attributed the delay in the G-4 plans to opposition from China and the United States and to the lack of co-sponsors for the resolution amongst member countries.

Machimura commented, "We will submit the resolution plan at the most appropriate time." He dismissed the idea that the G-4 originally intended to submit its resolution in June, saying, "I never said it would be in June."

8 June 2005 - The G-4 put forward a revised draft resolution at UN headquarters in which they proposed a 15-year freeze on veto powers for new permanent members of the UNSC. Ambassadors and other representatives of about 100 countries attended a G-4 briefing hosted by Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima and his Brazilian, German and Indian counterparts.

The new G-4 draft resolution stated: "The new permanent members shall not exercise the right of veto until the question of the extension of the right of veto to new permanent members have been decided upon in the framework of the review mandated [under the resolution]." Apart from the veto, it also stated, "New permanent members shall have the same responsibilities and obligations as current permanent members."

The previous G-4 draft resolution circulated on 16 May called for a general conference of UN members to review the UN Charter, as stipulated in Article 109, and said it should be held in 2020. However, in the new draft, the G-4 has toned down its demands, and is now calling only for the review of the roles of new permanent members 15 years after their ascension.

The change is considered to be a concession to the current permanent members who have expressed concern that new additional members might affect their privileges. Within the G-4, India is unhappy about the new position and is still advocating equal rights for new permanent members, indicating that its acceptance of the latest G-4 draft does not mean it has given up its hope of a veto right.

Koizumi said that the freeze on exercising veto rights was unavoidable: "The current permanent members will resist any attempt to infringe on their vested interests."

The G-4 collectively explained the change saying: "Time is now ripe to take a decision on this long pending issue, thus paving the way for a successful outcome of the Millennium Review Summit in September 2005."

The new G-4 draft got some positive responses, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said, "France is ready to cosponsor this [G-4] text." Britain, also expressed its support in principle, but China remains strongly opposed. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said, "We're resolutely opposed [to the G-4 plan]."

9 June 2005 - So Wakamatsu, writing in the Asahi Shimbun, was pessimistic about Tokyo's UNSC chances: "Japan made two serious miscalculations that have all but sunk its strategy to win a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Tokyo overestimated support from the United States by failing to recognize that U.S. interests come first in Washington, not the desires of a key ally. The second mistake was Tokyo's underestimation of anger against Japan in China, which has used its growing influence in the world to thwart Tokyo's long-cherished dream to join the exclusive club at the United Nations."

He also observed, "Japanese government officials have traveled the globe to muster support for the [G-4] resolution. They are often told by their counterparts that their government would like to sign on as a joint sponsor of the resolution-but ties with China also have to be considered."

- Asked about Chinese opposition to the G-4 resolution, Japan Ambassador to the United Nations Kenzo Oshima said, "It is not surprising because China's position has always been clear. But it is a regrettable move."

11 June 2005 - Foreign Minister Machimura returned to Japan empty-handed after visits to Brunei, Vietnam and Cambodia to win co-sponsors for the G-4 resolution. Unidentified diplomatic sources told the Japanese press that Chinese pressure was to blame for his failure to get any of the three countries to support the resolution.

- Writing in the Yomiuri Shimbun, Yoshikazu Shirakawa and Osamu Kawakami summarize the challenges that face Tokyo: "[The G-4] faces three major obstacles--China's opposition, the United State's favoritism of Japan and disagreements among the four nations--that must be overcome to realize their pledges."

13 June 2005 - NHK news broadcast the results of a poll that showed 43% of respondents supported the idea, while 43% opposed it.

15 June 2005 - A US congressional report states that members of a bipartisan panel failed to reach any agreement on whether the UNSC should be expanded or not. Tokyo expressed its disappointed that the document did not state US support for Japan's bid to gain a permanent seat. The reported stressed that it was important any enlargement enhance the effectiveness of the UNSC, and should not impede its efficiency. Giving Tokyo's assessment of the document, Vice Foreign Minister Ichiro Aisawa said, "We're a bit concerned, but we have to make our utmost efforts."

16 June 2005 - The US State Department announced its pro-Japan UN reform blueprint. Japan is informed of the contents a few hours in advance. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns lays out Washington's UN reform proposals* and UNSC enlargement ideas. It envisages about two countries, including Japan, should become new permanent UNSC members, with non-permanent members increasing by two or three countries.

Burns outlines the criteria for making such a selection and explains US support for Japan: "In addition to our likely support for two or so new permanent members, we will also support two or three additional nonpermanent seats...We have long supported Japan...Japan is now the second leading contributor of financial resources to the United Nations after the United States...Japan in recent years has become one of the leading contributors of military assets to U.N. peacekeeping missions...We haven't made a decision on who else we would support."

Burns said that instead of regional balance, new criteria to elect a member of the Security Council should be introduced, based on:
1) Economic scale
2) Population
3) Military capacity
4) Potential to contribute militarily to UN peacekeeping missions
5) Contributions to UN peacekeeping activities
6) Commitment to democracy and human rights
7) Financial contributions to the UN
8) Record on and commitment to counterterrorism efforts
9) Record on and commitment to nonproliferation efforts

17 June 2005 - When asked about Washington's public expression of support for Japan's bid, Koizumi said: "Japan can't buy this [US] proposal. We must stick to cooperation among the G-4 and the four countries must stand together." He added, "It's good for Japan, but not for the other [G-4] nations. We must think about the international community as a whole. I'd like to ask more understanding from the US."

Foreign Minister Machimura was more diplomatic: "I don't consider it as a choice we must make between the two. There could be another idea acceptable for each nation involved." He added, "It was a sudden proposal...It's so unexpected...[and] seems both worthy and troublesome. [Washington] threw us a curve ball." He also said, "I expressed thanks that the United States was mindful of Japan."

- The Japanese media was uncertain whether US support for Japan and opposition to the G-4 would help or hinder Tokyo. In an editorial the Yomiuri Shimbun [newspaper] argued, "Japan does not have to change its approach to UN reform. The government should pursue the goal of getting the G-4 plan adopted by intensely lobbying the United States and other nations to back the proposal." It added, "It also is unclear whether the United States will seriously seek to have its plan implemented."

19 June 2005 - According to an international survey on Japan's hopes of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council, 87 percent in China and 85 percent in South Korea said they are against the bid, with only 7 percent and 8 percent, respectively, supporting it. In Japan, 67 percent of the respondents said they support the bid, and 20 percent said they are against it. Japanese support was much higher than in the 13 June NHK survey, but the new poll was conducted a few months ago.

20 June 2005 - The G-4 agrees to submit its resolution within a week, but says the exact date of submission to the UN General Assembly will be decided by G-4 foreign ministers when they meet on 22 June in Brussels. However, G-4 diplomats indicated that they might postpone submission if the 53-member African Union, the largest regional bloc, asks them to do so.

24 June 2005 - Foreign Minister Machimura meets US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in London, but fails to bridge differences over UNSC reform, and they only agree to continue consultations. However, Japan wins British support for the G-4 resolution. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told Machimura that the UK would support the G-4, marking its first open declaration for the group.

29 June 2005 - According to Japanese diplomatic sources quoted by Kyodo News, acting US Ambassador to the UN Anne Patterson hinted to Senior Vice Foreign Minister Ichiro Aisawa that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "is flexible" about UNSC reform.

30 June 2005 - Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said when referring to the US stance on UNSC reform, "Our position is flexible."

* At the 16 June press conference, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said there were a number of reforms other than Security Council expansion that were critical to improving UN functions, including:

1) Creating a peace-building commission to provide more effective reconstruction and humanitarian support
2) Replacing the U.N. Human Rights Commission with a smaller council
3) Creating a fund to promote democracy
4) Establishing a comprehensive counterterrorism convention
5) Promoting development assistance

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