Japan Could Abandon G-4 Proposal in Next Few Months
John de Boer (Japan Fellow, Stanford University; Research Associate, GLOCOM)
All of a sudden, Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council seems to be in jeopardy. There are two principal reasons for this: (1) China's increasingly active role in mobilizing Southeast Asian and African nations against Japan's accession; (2) the U.S. government's coming out against the Group of Four (G-4) proposal that ties Japan's membership to that of Brazil, Germany and India. Although the United States supports Japan's membership, it strongly opposes opening up the council to other countries, in particular to Germany.
US opposition to the G-4 proposal was made clear on June 16. The US policy for UN reform limited the number of new permanent UNSC seats to two, one of which would be Japan. Officials in Japan, including prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, reacted stating that, "Japan can't buy the US proposal. We must stick to the cooperation among G-4 nations." (Yomiuri, June 19). The Associated Press quoted Koizumi as admitting that the US proposal was "good for Japan but not good for other countries in the G-4." He went on to state that Japan couldn't "adopt a plan that's only good for Japan. We have to think about the global community as a whole" (Associated Press, June 16).
According to one of Japan's leading dailies, the Asahi newspaper, US opposition to the G-4 is driven by a belief that adding more than two permanent seats to the council would "dilute US influence in the world body" (June 18). Obvious concern relates to Germany, which harshly opposed US plans to invade Iraq as a rotating member of the Security Council in 2003. Implied also is the notion that the US views Japan as a candidate that would "boost its influence" in the Security Council and by extension as a nation that is subservient to US interests.
On a separate front, China has stepped up its campaign to prevent Japan's membership. These efforts have seemingly succeeded in Indonesia and Thailand as both countries continue to emphasize ambiguity. China has put its force behind the "United for Consensus" group led by Argentina, Italy, Mexico Pakistan and South Korea, which insists that consensus needs to be reached before membership can even be discussed. The simple backing of 128 out of 191 UN member states is not enough according to them. Some have even predicted that the Chinese will eventually beat out Japan in terms of persuasion (see Antoaneta Bezlova, Inter Press Service, June 14, 2005).
Japan, along with its other G-4 sponsors, have already compromised on the issue of veto power for new permanent members stipulating that these members will have no veto power for the first fifteen years. In fact, they could very likely be forced to give up on veto power entirely considering that the US, China and likely Russia are all against extending the veto card to new permanent members. If the US and China keep up their pressure, we may also see Japan abandon the G-4 proposal in order to guarantee its own membership. Doing so may enable Japan to garner support from the likes of Pakistan, Argentina, Mexico and other United for Consensus members, thereby diluting China's persuasive power. It will be interesting to see how Japan's strategy shapes up over the next few months.