Fifty years have passed since Japan was admitted into the United Nations on Dec. 18, 1956. In his speech that day before the U.N. General Assembly, Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu expressed Japan’s determination to fulfill its duties under the U.N. Charter, and said that Japan can become a bridge between the East and the West. His appearance was remarkable because he signed Japan’s instrument of surrender aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945. Commitment to the U.N. has been an important pillar of Japan’s postwar foreign policy along with its close ties with the United States. As the U.N. is trying to adapt to a rapidly changing world and reform itself, Japan has much to contribute.

When Japan joined the U.N., its financial contribution was only 1.97 percent. It is now 19.47 percent, the second biggest following the U.S.’ 22 percent and larger than the contributions by the four other Security Council permanent members — Britain, France, Russia and China — combined. In the field of personnel contribution, Mr. Yasushi Akashi served as U.N. under secretary general for humanitarian affairs and Ms. Sadako Ogata as U.N. high commissioner for refugees. In 1992, Japan enacted the law for cooperation with U.N. peacekeeping operations. This year, Japan played an important role as chair of the Security Council in adopting a resolution incorporating sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear test.

Japan dreams of becoming a permanent member of the Security Council. While its participation in peacekeeping operations is currently limited to the Golan Heights and only a small number of Japanese are serving as high-ranking U.N. officials, it can enhance its position in the world body by playing active roles in such fields as fights against terrorism, poverty and infectious diseases, protection of human rights, nuclear-weapons nonproliferation and disarmament, and efforts against global warming.

The U.S.’ unilateralism, especially in Iraq, have weakened the U.N. Japan should help strengthen U.N. functions, keeping in mind that doing so not only makes the world better but also increases its diplomatic power.

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