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    Japanese Hopes for Security Council Seat Fade

    Japan's quest for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council is one of the factors fueling the anti-Japan protests that have erupted across China. Hopes are fading fast that Japan will win a seat anytime soon.

    Japan has joined Germany, India and Brazil in pressing a claim for a permanent Security Council seat. But Japan's bid is unlikely to even make it out of its own neighborhood with China and the two Korea's firmly opposed to their neighbor winning a seat.

    China has a permanent seat on the Security Council, and thus has veto power over any reforms. Beijing indicates it will not back a seat for Japan, unless Tokyo fully apologizes for its invasion of China in the first half of the last century.

    Japanese are becoming increasingly impatient with opposition to their bid - pointing out that China, despite its permanent seat, is not a democracy, is not a free market economy and has a poor record on human rights over the past half century.

    Tokyo's backers also point to Japan's pacifist Constitution and its increasing manpower contributions to U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

    Japan is the second-largest donor to the United Nations - contributing about 20 percent of the payments to the world body. Some politicians now are talking of trimming that support if the United Nations does not let it in to its most exclusive club.

    Conservative lawmaker Katsuei Hirasawa of the governing Liberal Democratic Party says Japan's neighbors, in bringing up the colonial past and World War II, like to use the country as a convenient scapegoat for their own problems.

    "The problem is that [the] war is not over," he said. "The Korea peninsula is still divided. And China has become a big economic country but still they have lots of domestic problems. Chinese leaders always are always wondering how to solve domestic problems. The best way is to blame Japan."

    Tokyo's relations with Beijing have sunk to their worst in more than 30 years. That is largely the result of recent massive demonstrations by China to protest revisions in two little-used textbooks that many say gloss over Japan's atrocities in China.

    The Japanese government wants Beijing to apologize for damage done to its diplomatic facilities and Japanese-owned businesses, as well as the assaults on some Japanese students. China says it has nothing to apologize for.

    Mr. Hirasawa says China will likely in the end offer conditional support for a Japanese Security Council seat.

    "Finally China will say that 'oh, we'll support Japan becoming a U.N. Security Council permanent member, but Japan has to change Japanese textbooks' or other conditions," he said. "Otherwise, China will never support Japan becoming a U.N. Security Council permanent member."

    Mr. Hirasawa and other powerful members of parliament predict Japan's leadership will never accept such conditions.

    U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan wants a decision on Security Council expansion pushed through the General Assembly by September.

    Japan supports this fast-track approach. But in his first news conference as U.S. ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer on Monday, said it would be best not to rush things.

    "We will do damage to the process if we say it has to be done by such-and-such date. Having said that, I think that our position is basically the same - that is that Japan deserves to have a seat on the Security Council," he said.

    Thomas Schieffer

     

    Although Ambassador Schieffer says Japan and China need to work out their larger differences on their own, without interference from Washington, the United States finds itself in the middle of the dispute, at least on the U.N. issue.

    While supporting Tokyo's bid for a permanent Security Council seat, the United States sides with Beijing in opposing the September deadline - effectively derailing plans to reform the Council anytime soon.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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