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Japan PM to propose limits on U.N. Security Council vetoes

  • March 19, 2022
  • , Nikkei Asia , 2:33 a.m.
  • English Press

RIEKO MIKI, Nikkei staff writer


TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will propose reforms at the United Nations to limit veto powers held by the Security Council’s five permanent members, Nikkei has learned, after Russia last month blocked a resolution condemning its invasion of Ukraine.


“Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, has violated international law with its reckless actions,” Kishida said at a parliamentary upper house budget committee meeting Thursday. “We need to work toward concrete reforms on the use of veto power.”


Kishida had told Japanese lawmakers on Monday that he wanted to continue promoting change at the U.N. and the Security Council in cooperation with countries like France, which has proposed limits to veto power in the past.


“Japan’s stance has long been that countries must exercise maximum restraint on veto use,” he said.


Kishida did not give details on Japan’s proposal, but possibilities include restricting the council’s permanent members from vetoing resolutions on conflicts in which they are involved, or resolutions related to grave human rights violations. The permanent members are the U.S., China, France, the U.K. and Russia.


The U.K. is willing to discuss removing Russia as a permanent member of the Security Council, a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on March 1.


Moscow is expected to block any attempts to remove Russia as a permanent member or to limit veto powers. The U.S. also has reservations. 


“There are too many hurdles to creating a framework that can replace the Security Council immediately,” said Yasuhiro Ueki, a professor at Sophia University in Japan with experience working for the U.N. But “if the Security Council doesn’t function, like-minded countries need to come together to raise international awareness.”


Japan, along with Germany, India and Brazil, has long advocated for adding new permanent members to the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body.


Russia’s recent actions “prove the need for a new framework for international order,” Kishida said Sunday at a gathering for Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.


Last month, around 80 countries including Japan and the U.S. submitted a resolution to the Security Council condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia vetoed the text.


China abstained, as did India and the United Arab Emirates — two of the 10 nonpermanent members elected to the council for two-year terms. Nonpermanent members lack veto power.

“The United Nations was born out of war to end war. Today, that objective was not achieved,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after the vote.


Later, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution demanding that Russia withdraw its forces from Ukraine, with 141 member states voting in favor and only five against. But while U.N. members are required to abide by Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are considered policy recommendations and are not legally binding.


The Security Council veto was used extensively by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.


Moscow’s blocking of last month’s resolution on Ukraine was not the first time Russia used its veto power to back its territorial grabs in the neighboring country. In 2014, Russia vetoed a resolution that would have invalidated a referendum in Crimea on leaving Ukraine. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in a move widely denounced as a violation of international law.

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