Global Policy Forum

Japan Sees Risk of UN Aid Cut If Council Bid Fails


By Evelyn Leopold

July 28, 2005

Japan anticipates domestic pressure to cut its contributions to the United Nations if its bid for a permanent Security Council seat fails, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said on Wednesday. Machimura, whose country is the second-highest payer to the United Nations, told a news conference the Japanese government did not expect to lose but had not decided what to do in case of defeat.

Japan is now assessed for more than 19 percent of the U.N. administrative budget of $1.2 billion a year and contributes to other agencies and programs. Only the United States is higher at 22 percent.

Enlargement of the 15-member council, which reflects the balance of power at the end of World War Two, is currently the most contentious issue at the United Nations. Machimura recalled a recent town meeting in Japan in which a speaker said Tokyo should decrease its U.N. contributions if it did not win a seat, which Japan is seeking in a joint resolution with Germany, Brazil and India.

"If we are not able to become a permanent member, that kind of thinking that was expressed at the town meeting will rapidly proliferate. That is something I can easily anticipate," Machimura said. "But the Japanese government has not made any decision of what may transpire," he said. "We believe we can be permanent members of the Security Council."

Machimura, in town to lobby for the council seat, acknowledged a summit of the 53-member African Union, scheduled for August 4 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was crucial to getting support for a compromise resolution between an African plan and the one from the four contenders, known as the G-4 or Group of Four.

The African Union is divided, with Nigeria lobbying for a compromise and Egypt and Algeria opposed. Brazil has estimated the four aspirants need at least 35 votes from Africa to reach the needed two-thirds vote in the 191-member U.N. General Assembly.

China Veto 'Unthinkable'

Machimura said it was "unthinkable" that China, which has lobbied heavily against Japan's membership, would use its veto power to kill it if the vast majority of General Assembly members voted in favor. The purpose of increasing the council membership is "so voices of developing countries will be more readily heard, so I don't think that China will block this process at the end," he said.

The resolution by Germany, Japan, Brazil and India would enlarge the Security Council to 25 members from 15. The plan envisions six new permanent seats, including two for Africa, but new members would not have veto power. The African Union's draft resolution asks for the council to be enlarged to 26 seats. Its proposal for six new permanent seats is the same as that of the G-4, except it would give the new members veto privileges.

The four aspirants are willing to compromise on the extra nonpermanent seat but not on the veto power. The last step in the procedure is a change in the U.N. Charter, which national legislatures have to approve. Here the current five permanent council members have a veto -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France.

The United States, which backs Japan, believes all proposals on the table for council expansion add too many members. Washington also thinks the debate in the United Nations should be delayed because it detracts from more ambitious U.N. reform proposals.

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