Japan, Brazil, India and Germany are joining forces to lobby for permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council. The move comes as a high-level panel prepares recommendations on reforming and enlarging the most powerful U.N. body. With a four-way handshake, senior Japanese, German, Indian and Brazilian leaders agreed this week to work together to win permanent Security Council seats. Meeting on the sidelines of the annual General Assembly debate, the four pledged to support each other's membership candidacies, if and when the Council is expanded.
One of the four, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi suggested in his General Assembly address that Japan's prominent role in world affairs entitles it to a Security Council seat.
"Japan's role has thus become increasingly vital to the maintenance of international peace and security, which is precisely the mandate of the Security Council," he said. "We believe that the role that Japan has played provides a solid basis for its assumption of permanent membership on the Security Council."
Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Akira Chiba reminded reporters that Tokyo's annual U.N. budget contribution, at 20-percent of the total, is larger than the combined total of permanent members China, France, Britain and Russia.
"The United States is the biggest contributor to the United Nations,but you can add the remaining contribution of the members and that is less than what Japan is contributing to the United Nations, and that is a figure that cannot be ignored," he said.
The four-nation push for permanent Council seats comes just months before a high-level panel on U.N. reform is due to issue its recommendations. The panel is said to be considering several options for adding Council seats to make it more representative of 21st century global reality.
Total membership in the world body has increased from 51 when it was founded at the end of World War II to 191 members today. The permanent five Security Council members are those most prominent in the world then. But Germany and Japan, defeated in the war, have regained their status as world powers.
Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger, whose country is the world body's third largest financial contributor, argues that the Security Council must be able to change with the times if it is to continue to be relevant.
"If you look at the new challenges we're facing in the Council, asymmetric violence in terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, failing states, we need instruments and the Security Council has to provide them and two things are necessary," he said. "One is that the Security takes a decision considered to be legitimate. Legitimacy comes from representativeness. And so we want to improve the representativeness of the Council in order to improve its legitimacy of its decisions."
Ambassador Pleuger and other candidate country diplomats express confidence that the Council could be expanded as early as next year. He says the recommendations of the high-level panel on reform can be acted on in the General Assembly and sent to national legislatures for ratification as soon as they are announced.
But several potential obstacles suggest expansion could take years, and may never happen. Any change in the U.N. charter, which would be necessary, requires ratification of two-thirds of the member states, and all permanent Council members.
China has in the past voiced doubts about Japan's membership. Diplomats say the United States has been cool to Germany's candidacy following Berlin's opposition to the war in Iraq. Italy also opposes a German seat. And Pakistan is against India's candidacy.
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf made it clear in his General Assembly speech that his country views Security Council expansion with a suspicious eye.
"There is no agreement on the aspiration of a few states to acquire permanent membership of the Security Council. The overwhelming majority of states are against the creation of new centers of privilege," he said.
The four countries pooling their efforts to join the Council all agree that a fifth permanent seat should be created representing Africa. There was no agreement, however, on which country might be chosen for the prestigious seat. Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria are considered the front-runners.