With eye toward permanent slot, Japan kicks off two-year stint on U.N. Security Council



Japan’s two-year stint as a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council officially began Friday, marking the country’s first participation in the global organization’s top body in five years.

In 2016, which in December will see the 60th anniversary of Japan’s entry into the United Nations, Tokyo plans to push for reforms to the council that better reflect the world’s contemporary realities, which it hopes will eventually open the doors to Japan and a handful of other nations becoming a permanent members.

Tokyo will also be involved in the selection process for the successor to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose term expires at the year’s en. Although the eral Assembly OKs the appointment, the Security Council effectively has the final say in determining the U.N. chief’s replacement.

Expectations have been growing that a woman will take over the organization’s top post for the first time as selection efforts pick up steam.

Among the front-runners are two women: Vesna Pusic, Croatia’s first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign and European affairs, has declared her candidacy, while UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has also been cited as a potential candidate for the post.

Japan joined the United Nations on Dec. 18, 1956, as its 80th member, 11 years after the body’s founding and later became one of the chief financial contributors to the U.N. budget.

Since the 1990s, Japan has dispatched Self-Defense Force personnel to places such as Cambodia and East Timor to assist in peacekeeping missions and nation-building.

“We would like to devote ourselves to demonstrating that Japan has a wealth of experience and is committed more than anyone else to tackling international issues,” Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa said shortly after the country won its seat on the council in an unopposed October election.

It was Tokyo’s 11th election as a nonpermanent member — a record for any nation.

Despite falling contributions in relative terms to the general U.N. budget, Japan is hoping to maintain its position as a leading member of the United Nations. Financial contributions are seen as a key indicator of a country’s influence in the global body.

While remaining the second-largest regular budget contributor behind the United States, Japan’s share in the 2016-2018 budget cycle is set to fall below 10 percent for the first time since 1983.

In peacekeeping operations, China will eclipse Japan as the second-largest contributor behind the United States in the period starting this year.

“In certain senses, a stronger role in peacekeeping and the stronger political leadership within the U.N. compensates for the slight reduction in financial contribution,” said Columbia University political science professor Michael Doyle, who served as assistant secretary general and special adviser to the U.N. secretary general from 2001-2003.

“Peacekeeping (missions are) especially short on things like medical (support), logistics and communications, which are well within the capacities of the SDF to provide.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government in September passed controversial national security laws in the Diet, including one that enables Japan to make a broader contribution to U.N. peacekeeping operations. After the laws come into force at the end of March, armed SDF members will be able to rescue U.N. staff or other countries’ troops under attack by militants. The law, however, is not expected to be applied until later this year.

Other nations elected as nonpermanent council members for the 2016-2017 term are Egypt, Senegal, Uruguay and Ukraine.

The council has five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — as well as five other nonpermanent members that will remain in their slots through 2016 — Angola, New Zealand, Spain, Malaysia and Venezuela.

Japan has been jointly pursuing a revamped Security Council with Germany, Brazil and India, with all four aspiring to become permanent members. Japan’s window of opportunity for attaining a permanent seat is narrowing, however, as its financial clout abates, one U.N. official said.

During its two-year stint that includes the rotating presidency of the council in July, Tokyo will need to flex its diplomatic muscle and prove that it is committed to dealing with a variety of issues such as the fight against Islamic State militants, civil war in Syria and tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

  • skillet

    Japan should definitely have a seat with the size of their economy.

    • wrle

      Russia’s economy is actually smaller than south Korea, Brazil, Germany, Italy, India, Spain or Canada but why does Russia have a permanent seat then?

      • goseki

        well nuclear weapons and they won the 2nd World War. But yeah the SC is a bit anachronistic – the veto needs watering down .. my suggestion is to require at least 2 veto votes to be effective.

      • wrle

        And preferably countries that have reached a high level of development equality human rights and freedom of speech, none of which russia nor china have.

      • wrle

        And preferably countries that have reached a high level of development equality human rights and freedom of speech, none of which russia nor china have.

  • tisho

    They violate every single UN accord that does not suit their interests, then they claim to be committed to the international law and demand a permanent sit. Im split between schizophrenia and a bipolar disease. The UN has proven to be a complete BS, most recently by choosing Saudi Arabia, the number one Human right violator, as the host country for the annual human rights forum. That’s like choosing North Korea for a host country of world democracy forum. The UN motto should be: whoever can bribe us the most!

  • MiniGimp

    For the last 70 years, Japan has been exemplary as a member of the international community. Also they are in the midst of an epic battle with China trying to takeover their county. They have much to teach the world. Being much closer to China, they have valuable insights. Please don’t ignore this peaceful nation which is somewhat of a canary in the coalmine

    • tomado

      Better than some, worse than others. Japan has yet to develop any capacity for international mediation nor any hint of a global vision. They have more to learn than to teach. The problem is, you don’t get to leadership in Japan by having global vision. Japan is a rich and powerful country with fading intellectual vigor. It’s important strategically yet losing relevancy outside of what it brings by dint of where it sits geographically and economically. Japan may have squandered the position it gained, too easily, with arrogance and myopia. Probably it will have difficulty winning new friends or broader respect. Japan’s power comes from its old guard rather than it’s new generation, from its patriarchal system rather than from innovation. It won’t be Japan’s last chance to take the wheel but it might be its last shot at demonstrating it can use influence for something outside itself.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Nothing illustrates Japan’s capacity for self-delusion more than its belief that it should have a permanent seat on the security council.