Japan to Continue Push for Permanent Security Council Seat

Japan is vowing to continue its quest to obtain a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. But frustration within the country is mounting, with talk surfacing that Tokyo should consider reducing its massive contribution to the United Nations. The issue could come up at the world body this week during speeches by Japan's prime minister and foreign minister.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Akira Chiba, said Tuesday that Japan intends to have a leading voice in talks on reforming the United Nations and has not abandoned its goal of a permanent Security Council seat.

"Japan never thought that it was going to be an easy battle. We all know that it's a very difficult task to reform a body as large and complicated as the United Nations," said Mr. Chiba. "On the other hand we think that this is a very good chance to reform that organization and to make it into a fairer body which reflects the actual situation of the world."

Japan and Germany had jointly pushed for this week's U.N. summit to agree on expanding the Security Council. However, their bid, along with a quest by several other nations to permanently join the elite council, has made no progress.

The five permanent members of the Security Council - the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France - can veto any Security Council resolution. The other 10 seats on the council, which rotate among the members of the United Nations, hold no veto power.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had planned for this year's 60th anniversary summit of United Nations members to focus on significant reforms to the institution. However, opposition from many countries, including the United States and China, means Security Council changes are unlikely.

Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura left on Tuesday for New York. In Tokyo there is speculation he will request a financial review of the United Nations in a speech to the General Assembly.

Japan is the second largest contributor to the world body, behind the United States, with an annual contribution of nearly $350 million - almost one-fifth of the U.N. budget.

Mr. Chiba on Tuesday denied that the Japanese government is linking the issue of how contributions from members are assessed and the failure of Security Council reform.

"The issue of the assessment is our consistent policy. It is not decided whether or not this will be included in the speech to be delivered but this has been our consistent policy," he said.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also will address the General Assembly, but he is to leave the bulk of the lobbying for reforms to his foreign minister.

More than 170 global leaders are expected for this week's meeting to discuss U.N. reform and other issues.

A senior U.S. State Department official on Monday named Japan as the only country that meets Washington's criteria for new council members. But the official added that the United States would like to see progress on management aspects of the reform agenda before focusing on the Security Council.


Steve Herman

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

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