(Asahi: March 10, 2016 – p. 4)
The Abe administration is stepping up its efforts to gain a permanent seat for Japan at the United Nations Security Council. The government aims to “produce results by the autumn” because this year Japan attended the UNSC meeting as a nonpermanent member when the Council discussed the resolution calling for sanctions against North Korea. However, the UN Charter must be reformed for permanent members to be added, and that is said to be more difficult than amending the Constitution of Japan. As a result, there are no prospects in sight for Japan to gain a permanent UNSC seat.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida spoke passionately in February at the MOFA Headquarters on Strategy for the United Nations Security Council: “The 70th session of the General Assembly is a significant one, and it offers us an important opportunity.”
The 70th session goes through the autumn, and the G4 countries – Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil – all want to produce results before the session ends. Last year the G4 submitted to the UN a reform proposal calling for an increase in the number of UNSC seats from the present 15 to 25 or 26. The four countries held a director-general level meeting in India on March 4, and the officials vowed to band together in intergovernmental negotiations to be held at UN Headquarters on March 10.
The Abe administration views Japan’s quest for a permanent UNSC seat as “extremely important for Japan’s national interests and security.” Senior government officials strengthened their resolve on this because of North Korea’s nuclear test and firing of a long-range missile earlier this year. Japan participated as a nonpermanent member in UNSC discussions to adopt a resolution to impose sanctions against North Korea. A senior Foreign Ministry official said: “Because Japan was a UNSC member, we were able to express our own views and instantly know the differences in the various countries’ positions.”
The term for nonpermanent members, however, is two years. Moreover, there is a regulation prohibiting re-election, so nations must “campaign” each time to become a member. Permanent members have limitless access to country information inside the decision-making body of the UN. The Abe government thinks that being a permanent member will strengthen Japan’s diplomatic and security capabilities.
To reform the UN Charter, which is required for Japan to join the UNSC, requires the agreement of a two-thirds majority of all UN member countries and ratification by all UNSC permanent members. If even one permanent member is opposed, the reform proposal is not passed. A proposal for UNSC reform submitted by Japan and other countries in 2005 was unable to even be put to a vote because China didn’t want Japan to join the UNSC and the United States didn’t want to increase the number of permanent members.
Japan’s UN budget contribution, which was 20% in the 2000s, decreased to below 10% this year. (Slightly abridged)