Japan's Campaign for a Seat on the Security Council

Countries with a seat on the United Nations Security Council belong to an exclusive club. Under the UN charter, the Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining peace and security around the world.

Yet there is growing friction between two members of the council, Japan and China. China has a permanent seat on the council -- Japan does not. When Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed sweeping changes to the UN last month, Japan’s campaign for a permanent place at the table seemed to gain momentum.

But as Leta Hong Fincher reports, growing anti-Japanese sentiment in China has put a potential stumbling block in the way.

Hundreds of Chinese have protested outside Japanese department stores in this southern city, Shenzhen, and another Chinese city in recent weeks. Chinese activists here were collecting signatures for a petition opposing Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Organizers of an Internet petition in China say they have already gathered more than 24 million signatures demanding that Japan be denied a permanent Council seat.

Analysts say these protests suggest official Chinese approval, and that Beijing, which has veto power in the Security Council, could block Japan's decade-long bid to join the international body.

Bill Breer, Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. says, “China kind of likes being the only permanent [Asian] representative on the Security Council, I think. So it's going to be a tough battle to get China's acquiescence on this issue."

He says China remains angry over what it sees as Japan's failure to apologize for its World War Two atrocities. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, which includes Japanese war criminals among its honored war dead, infuriate Beijing. New Japanese history textbooks also anger the Chinese, along with the South Koreans.

Critics say the books whitewash Japan's militaristic past and 1937 mass murders in the Chinese city, Nanjing -- events that became known as the "Rape of Nanking." Mr. Breer speaks about this inaccuracy. "There's a lot of denial in Japan of that, but everybody knows of the so-called Rape of Nanking and the Chinese remember that. They not only remember it but they stimulate memory of that in their education system."

Mr. Breer also says Japanese leaders, in turn, feel they have already apologized for Japan's wartime aggression. Tokyo is nervous about Beijing's rising military spending, increased threats against Taiwan, and a Chinese submarine incursion into Japanese waters last year.

At the same time, Japan continues to pour investments into China. Every major Japanese electronics and auto firm has manufacturing plants in China. And China has now displaced the United States as Japan's largest trading partner.

Yuki Tatsumi, a Japan scholar at the Henry Stimson Center research group in Washington D.C., describes the dynamic between China and Japan as "cold politics and hot economics." About the link between the two countries she says, "It's obviously a very, very complicated relationship. It's a historical relationship and it's also [an] emotional relationship, as much as it's also political and it's diplomatic and it's economic."

Ms. Tatsumi says that for years, Japan downplayed its friction with China. But Japan has slowly begun to build its relationship with the United States into a firm military alliance, in part to counteract China's rise.

Japan has sent hundreds of troops to Iraq, in its first military mission abroad since World War Two. Tokyo and Washington also signed a joint declaration in February that for the first time listed Taiwan as a mutual security concern.

China has denounced the agreement as a threat to its sovereignty. But Mr. Breer says, like it or not, Japan will take on a larger role in regional security matters in the future. "Japan has very slowly moved to a more supportive role for American peacekeeping and stability-maintaining activities in East Asia, I think that's the most important thing over the years--and slowly is overcoming what for many years was an abhorrence of things military."

China has yet to overcome its own abhorrence of a strong Japanese military. And analysts say that if China has its way, it could be years before Japan realizes its goal of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs