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Editorial: Japan must help reform dysfunctional UN Security Council

  • June 20, 2022
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has spotlighted the dysfunction at the United Nations Security Council. And it is in this situation that Japan will join the council as a non-permanent member starting in January, hoping to contribute to the restructuring of international order and to build momentum for U.N. reform.


This will be the 12th time that Japan will serve as a non-permanent member — the most of any U.N. member state — the last time being in 2016-17.


The security council is facing trying times. Russia, a permanent member and thus responsible for the peace and security of the international community, has itself committed an act of aggression violating international law. And there are very serious suspicions that its troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine. Despite the critical situation, the council cannot act, paralyzed by Russia’s permanent member veto power.


A draft security council resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops was submitted immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, but Russia vetoed it.


The U.N. General Assembly, consisting of all U.N. member states, has been the fallback body for responding to the invasion. A mechanism was also established to require any permanent member of the security council who exercised their veto power to give an explanation to the general assembly. However, general assembly resolutions are not legally binding like those of the security council, so are no substitute.


Last month, a security council resolution to strengthen sanctions against North Korea for its ballistic missile launches was proposed, but vetoed by China and Russia.


The security council has adopted 10 sanctions resolutions against Pyongyang, all unanimously, since 2006, when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. This is the first time that China and Russia have exercised their veto power over North Korea sanctions, showing the depth of the division between them and the United States and Europe.


Observers have pointed out that North Korea may be on the verge of conducting its seventh nuclear test. If the security council cannot act over an atomic weapons test, its very raison d’etre may come into doubt.


Japan must play an especially active role to ensure that the rules-based international order is maintained. It is necessary for Japan to communicate fully not only with Europe and the U.S., but also with China and other nations.


The security council has never needed reforming more than now. To do so, however, the U.N. Charter must be amended, requiring ratification by two-thirds of the 193 member states including all five permanent security council members.


Japan, along with Germany, India, and Brazil, sought security council reform in 2005, but fell short. Japan should not give up and should continue its efforts to restore the functioning of the security council.

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