Japan's Quest for a Permanent UN Security Council Seat: Part Eight - Japan's UN Dream Suffers a Setback
J. Sean Curtin (Fellow' GLOCOM and Asia Times)
A full list of articles in this series can be found here.
Japan's long cherished dream of gaining a permanent UN Security Council seat has suffered a major blow after a crucial meeting in London ended inconclusively. In response to the setback' Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura immediately canceled all his official engagements and dashed to UN Headquarters in New York in a last-ditch attempt to revive Tokyo's ailing bid. Japanese diplomats are pessimistic about his chances and one diplomatic source said' "We desperately needed these negotiations to produce a decisive outcome' and that has just not happened. Therefore' the prospects for success are looking pretty dim."
On Monday the so-called Group of Four (G-4)' comprising United Nations Security Council (UNSC) hopefuls Japan' India' Germany and Brazil' met in London for what was billed as a "make-or-break" meeting about Security Council reform with representatives of the African Union (AU).
The two groups have each submitted similar Security Council reform resolutions' yet neither has the 128 votes needed for adoption' making cooperation the only viable way forward.
Intense in-fighting and splits within the fractious AU have made finding a consensus with the G-4 extremely tough. Last week' intensive AU-G-4 discussions in New York failed to get anywhere.
A fatigued-looking Kenzo Oshima' Japan's UN ambassador in New York' underlined the importance of the London summit admitting: "We have exhausted our discussions. It is now up to African ministers to take a decision."
Both groupings want the UNSC to be enlarged by six new permanent seats' but the AU wants veto rights straight away' whereas the G-4 is willing to wait 15-years. The AU also demands five additional non-permanent seats' while the G-4 prefers four.
The Security Council currently has 10 non-permanent seats and five permanent members' Britain' China' France' Russia and the US.
Before the talks began in London' a German diplomat acknowledged: "We need a concrete result to come out of these negotiations' otherwise our [G-4] resolution will lose momentum. Anything less than a solid result will be a major setback as time is running out." The G-4 wants a vote on its resolution before the UN General Assembly breaks on August 5.
The gathering dragged on all day' eventually spilling over into the evening. There were numerous meeting between G-4 foreign ministers and their counterparts from Nigeria' Egypt' South Africa' Libya' Algeria' Ghana as well as several African UN ambassadors.
When the exhausted G-4 and AU ministers finally emerged' it was unclear' even to most of the participants themselves' exactly what had been decided. Conflicting accounts of what had' or had not been agreed' began to emerge by late evening.
Superficially' the two groups appear to have finally agreed to work towards a joint draft resolution. Nigerian Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeniji' whose country holds the presidency of the African Union' tried to sound up-beat.
He told reporters' "We have both come to the conclusion that unless we work together in producing one draft resolution' the reform of the United Nations will not go forward." Since his remarks echoed what the G-4 has been saying for weeks' it initially appeared that some progress had been made.
However' what Adeniji significantly failed to mention was whether the AU and the G-4 had officially agreed to merge their proposals as the G-4 has been demanding. Instead he said' "The agreement is that we will work towards coming out with a joint draft resolution ultimately." On an equally vague note he added' "We have some common understanding of the elements of the joint proposal."
Since none of the AU ministers could give any details of the proposal and all said they needed to first consult their governments on the matter' it appeared no binding accord had been reached.
Later Adeniji conceded' "There is an agreement that the African Union would meet at an extraordinary meeting to discuss the way forward." Some AU diplomats have suggested the summit will be held on August 4.
What appears to have happened is that some AU countries have provisionally agreed to drop their demand for veto rights for new permanent members in return for the G-4 accepting one additional new non-permanent UNSC seat.
Adeniji told reporters' "We have agreed not to press for a veto'" while German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer indicated the G-4 would agree to an additional non-permanent seat as demanded by the AU. He said' "If this could lead to an agreement it would be an important step forward." His Japanese counterpart' Machimura' added: "The G-4 would agree to the African Union plan to expand the number of new non-permanent members by five instead of four."
Back in Tokyo' Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda clarified the situation' noting that nothing had actually been finalized. "The AU will take the G-4's revision proposals back with them and consider them'" he said.
African Union split
The problem is that even though the AU and the G-4 appear to have reached a consensus' there is absolutely no guarantee that an extraordinary meeting of AU members will approve the London understanding.
Nigeria has been keen to compromise on veto rights' but several North African nations have strongly opposed such an approach. It appears that in London some AU countries agreed to merge their proposal with the G-4' while others did not.
Some analysts suggest that the recently formed African Union may disintegrate over the issue due to bitter internal policy feuds. Only 36 of its 53 members actually voted for its own plan at the AU summit at the beginning of July. Nigeria and South Africa are seen as the most willing to compromise with the G-4' but their stance has drawn fierce criticism from others.
There are also very serious tensions between the three main AU contenders' Nigeria' South Africa and Egypt' for the two proposed permanent seats for Africa. Egypt and Algeria are vehemently opposed to Nigeria or South Africa obtaining permanent seats and as a result are vigorously opposing the AU resolution.
These internal conflicts mean that even if the G-4 eventually gets AU backing' it will probably only receive about 36 African votes to add to its own tally of about 32' giving the two blocks only about 68 assured votes' far short of the 128 needed for a resolution to be passed.
The dire situation explains why Japanese Foreign Minister Machimura decided to skip a regional gathering in Laos and instead head for New York to drum up support.
Beijing' which is strongly opposed to Tokyo's bid' has utilized all its diplomatic skills to block its regional rival and' not surprisingly' the Chinese media is already declaring Japan's UNSC bid dead. Tokyo knows it will to have to work extremely hard if it is going to resurrect its UNSC chances and prove the pundits of the Middle Kingdom wrong.