The Foreign Ministry will step up its efforts to achieve Japan’s goal of gaining a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council after the fall U.N. General Assembly session.

This renewed thrust comes amid signs that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is warming to the idea.

“This is the best chance to reform the United Nations. We must not miss this shift,” Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told ministry officials holding their first meeting in early August at a new headquarters set up to discuss measures aimed at strengthening the U.N.

A high-level U.N. committee set up by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will submit a report on U.N. reforms in December. Based on this report, the Foreign Ministry wants to push for a permanent seat in 2005, ministry sources said.

The ministry’s zeal is being fueled by Japan’s growing presence on the global stage, including its dispatch of Self-Defense Forces units to Iraq and its participation in peacekeeping operations.

But obtaining a permanent Security Council seat is not an easy task. To expand the Security Council, the U.N. Charter would have to be rewritten, with its ratification requiring approval from more than two-thirds of the U.N. members, including the five permanent members — Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States.

Japan, Germany and other nations defeated in World War II have been excluded from permanent membership.

Foreign Minister Kawaguchi asserted that many countries support Japan’s bid for permanent membership. Diplomatic analysts observed, however, that it is extremely difficult to get each U.N. member’s consent.

In 1997, a U.N. working group tasked with promoting Security Council reform submitted a plan to increase the number of members from the current 15, five permanent and 10 nonpermanent members, to 24 — 10 permanent and 14 nonpermanent members. The proposal was not realized.

The United States has also been sending out mixed signals on the issue.

At a Japan-U.S. summit in June, President George W. Bush voiced support for Japan’s permanent membership, but U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said earlier this month that Japan needs to reassess the war-renouncing Article 9 of its Constitution if it wants to become a permanent member.

The United States and Russia want to increase the number of Security Council members to 20 or 21. But nonaligned nations are calling for more than 26 members.

Whether to grant the right of veto, which only the five current permanent members have, to new permanent members is another issue.

About 10 years ago, Koizumi led a Diet group that was cautious about Japan’s permanent membership of the UNSC.

When he assumed office in 2001, he was also cool on the idea, saying, “Permanent members do not deny the use of force to resolve international conflicts, but Japan does.”

But in stark contrast to his earlier position, Koizumi said Tuesday he will make a pitch to get Japan a permanent seat during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly next month.

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