Japan's Quest for a Permanent UN Security Council Seat: Part Seven - G-4 Needs African Union Support
Lyse Doucet (Presenter, BBC News) and J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times)
A full list of articles in this series can be found here.
Japan and the other G-4 (India, Brazil and German) countries' hopes of gaining a permanent UN Security Council (UNSC) seat have entered a critical stage with success or failure depending on cooperation with the 53-member African Union (AU). Both groupings have tabled their own separate resolutions, but neither appears to be able to muster the 128 votes necessary for adoption. The AU wants six new permanent UNSC seats as does the G-4, and five new rotating non-permanent seats, while the G-4 wants to increase the number by four. The AU resolution would enlarge the UNSC to 26, and the G-4 to 25. The AU wants the new permanent members to have veto rights straight away, whereas the G-4 envisages a 15-year waiting period before a veto is granted. Superficially, the two rival plans appear very similar.
Lyse Doucet: Is it just the veto issue that is dividing the G-4 and the African Union?
Sean Curtin: There are two major reasons for the present stalemate. One is that the African Union realizes it holds a pivotal position which will allow the G-4 resolution to move forward or fail. Quite simply, without their support, the G-4 resolution is not going to going to succeed. So, they want to take advantage of the situation and get the best possible deal for Africa.
Second, the African Union is itself is rather divided on the issue. Only 36 of its 53 member states actually voted in support of their own plan, and some countries like Algeria are openly opposed to it. So, the lack of unity in the African Union also makes the negotiation process with the G-4 more difficult than it appears on the surface.
The differences between the two sets of proposals are not that great and overall they are pretty similar. Basically, the G-4 wants the Security Council expanded to 25, and the African Union wants 26 with just one more additional non-permanent member than the G-4. Also the African Union wants veto rights for permanent members immediately, while the G-8 wants to wait 15 years before they get the veto.
There really is not much of a difference between them, but the African Union is holding out for the best deal possible. They know they hold all the key cards because they currently have more votes than the G-4 camp and unless the two groups join together the G-4 dream is never going to happen.
Lyse Doucet: Do you think that Japan having a permanent seat would trouble China?
Sean Curtin: Obviously, Asia deserves another seat because of its size and economic importance. Japan would be the natural candidate, closely followed by India. However, China has made it clear it opposes the Japanese bid and has really flexed its diplomatic muscles in order to achieve this objective. It has been amazingly effective so far, demonstrating what a truly global player Beijing has become. It has been incredibly efficient in blocking Japan's every move in the region.
Last month, Japanese Foreign Minister [Nobutaka] Machimura frantically travelled around Asia trying to get support for the G-4 resolution, but failed to get any country to co-sponsor the document thanks largely to the efforts of China. In fact, apart from India which is one of the G-4 countries, the only Asian country to co-sign the resolution was Afghanistan.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said that China would block the Japanese bid unless Tokyo reflects on its past. Underlying this message, Beijing has produced a policy document which outlines its opposition to Japan becoming a permanent member. It seems that if Japan came near to becoming a permanent member of the Security Council, then China probably would veto it.
Lyse Doucet: Do you think that Japan and the G-4 can win enough support to move forward?
Sean Curtin: At the moment it would be difficult for them to get their resolution passed in its current form. There are three sets of proposals currently on the table, the G-4, African Union and the American one as well as another group of countries which oppose the G-4 and are threatening to table their own resolution. At the moment, there are just too many proposals in circulation and not enough votes for any of them to be adopted.
At this stage, one thing it is important to remember is that these resolutions are not written in stone and can be change and altered. In fact that is the process which is going on now.
One thing we can say with certainty is that the current G-4 proposal will not remain in its current state. There will have to be compromises and deals. Quite simply, the G-4 will have to team up with the African Union and get them on-board if they are going to have any chance of success.
For a resolution to be adopted it requires at least 128 votes out of the 191 UN member states. At the moment, the G-4 resolution is no way near breaking the 128-vote barrier, so it desperately needs the 53 votes of the African Union to combine with its own block of supporters.
Lyse Doucet: Assuming that the reform goes ahead and that new seats are created, there would be a new member from South East Asia and South Asia. India, of course, would be the candidate country here.
Sean Curtin: Yes, India and Japan are the hopefuls from Asia, but the mechanics of the reform process are much more complex than just the fate of the G-4 resolution.
[UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan also has his own two sets of reform proposals, which basically see the creation of new permanent Security Council members under option A and renewable non-permanent members under option B.
Many of those countries that oppose the G-4 resolution support the renewable non-permanent members plan B. So, there is definitely a momentum for reform within the UN, the real problem is that there is no consensus at the moment about what that reform should be.
In the end, it could be that we do have an expansion of the Security Council, but with just non-permanent, or the number of permanent members only increasing by about one or two, along the lines of the US proposal. We will just have to wait and see what happens.
Lyse Doucet: Japan is pushing very hard and very much wants to become a permanent member. Why is that?
Sean Curtin: Because Japan provides almost 20% of the UN budget, actively supports many UN projects, has provided substantial financing and aid for the Middle East peace process and is a major contributor to UN international activities.
Regrettably, it is only in its own neighborhood where appreciation for its UN work is low. In both China and South Korea over 85% of people oppose Japan's bid for permanent UN membership. So, despite its great global contribution there is a serious problem for it in Asia. That is the major dilemma and contradiction facing Japanese diplomacy.
The above discussion was originally broadcast on BBC World's Asia Today programme on 18 July 2005.
An earlier discussion about the start of Japan's UNSC bid can be found here.