Subject: [cwj 63] Japan Battles for Big Power Status at UN
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000 09:59:32 -0700
Seq: 63

Japan Battles for Big Power Status at UN

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 18 (IPS) - Japan, the second largest
contributor to the UN budget, is bitterly disappointed that its
most ambitious goal at the United Nations - a permanent seat in
the 15-member Security Council - still remains beyond its reach.

Despite its high-powered lobbying - and the tremendous influence
it wields as the world's biggest aid donor - Japan has failed to
convince the majority of the remaining 187 member states that it
richly deserves the title of a "veto-wielding, big power".

"The Japanese would give anything - and perhaps sacrifice
everything they have - to get that elusive permanent seat in the
Security Council," says an Asian diplomat, who is privy to the
ongoing closed-door negotiations on the reform of the Security

The world's five big powers at the United Nations - the United
States, Britain, France, China and Russia - are the five veto-
wielding permanent members of the Security Council.

The veto powers they wield elevate them to the ranks of the five
most powerful countries in the world body giving them the ultimate
authority to declare war and peace - and also decide on who
should, and who shouldn't, be subjected to international

But the two countries feverishly knocking at the Security Council
door, namely Japan and Germany, have so far been shut out because
member states remain hopelessly deadlocked on whether they qualify
to be big powers.

Unless there is a dramatic change in thinking - or a sheer
political miracle - the proposed expansion of the Security Council
may be confined only to an increase in the non-permanent members,
from the current 10 to about 15 or 20.

But this is not exactly what Japan is seeking: it wants an
increase in the number of permanent seats so that it can join the
exclusive ranks of the Big Five in the Council.

The reform of the Security Council, which has been on the UN
agenda for nearly a decade, is expected to be one of the items for
discussion at the summit meeting of the Group of Eight - namely,
the United States, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Canada, Japan
and Canada - meeting in Okinawa, Jul. 21-23. But there is very
little the Group of Eight could do - without strong support from
the remaining 180 members of the UN General Assembly.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has indicated his sympathy
towards Japan, says it is hard to imagine a nation that does more,
across the breadth of the international agenda, than Japan.

"Japan is unquestionably one of the world's leading economic
powers, and its performance remains crucial to the recovery of all
the East Asian economies," he points out.

Annan also says that Japan continues to have the largest programme
for official development assistance (ODA) in the world, with
support reaching a "remarkable" 160 countries.

"And I need hardly remind you that Japan is the second largest
contributor to the regular budget of the United Nations. Indeed,
it is, at present, the first in terms of actual payments."

But frankly, admits Annan, a permanent seat in the Security
Council is "a matter for the member states to decide". "But I hope
they will address this without further delay."

But no one seems to be in a hurry to create permanent seats either
for Germany or Japan. A Working Committe on the Reform of the
Security Council, comprising all 188 member states, has been
labouring for over five years - but with hardly any success.

Although Japan has aggressively used its financial clout to push
for high-ranking jobs in the UN system in the past - it has failed
miserably to get the necessary support to clinch a permanent seat
in the Security Council.

Last year, a Japanese diplomat campaigning on behalf of his
countryman for the top job at the UN Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was quoted as saying: "No Japan, No

After a bruising battle, Ambassador Koichiro Matsuura of Japan,
beat out candidates from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sri Lanka,
Australia, Romania, France, Indonesia, Hungary, the Philippines
and Trinidad and Tobago, for the top job at UNESCO.

Before the election, the New York Times said that UNESCO
headquarters was "buzzing with rumours that the Japanese and Saudi
governments had promised generous aid packages to several Third
World countries in exchange for their votes."

Currently, Japan accounts for 20 percent of the 1.3 billion dollar
annual UN budget, is the number one donor providing an average of
about 11 billion dollars in ODA annually, and is the largest
single contributor to UNESCO, the UN Development Programme (UNDP),
and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), among various other UN funds
and programmes.

Since most high ranking jobs in the UN system are now donor
driven, Japan has been accused of resorting to "cheque book

When Japan's Hiroshi Nakajima ran for a second term as Director-
General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1993, the
elections were marred by a vote-buying scandal.

Japan was accused of pressuring aid-recipients, mostly poorer
developing nations in Africa, to cast their votes in favour of
Japan. The trade-off was apparently increased Japanese aid.
Nakajima won by an overwhelming majority.

Besides WHO's Nakajima, some of the distinguished Japanese who
held high UN office include Judge S. Oda of the International
Court of Justice in the Hague and Yashushi Akashi, Under-Secretary-
General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Secretary-General's
Special Representative both in Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia.

Currently, some of the senior UN officials include UNESCO's
Matsuura, Under-Secretary-General Kensaku Hogen, who heads the
UN's Department of Public Information, the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees Sadako Ogata, and Assistant Secretary-General for
Central Support Services Niwa Toshiyuki.

Last year there were reports that some Japanese politicians were
proposing to use the country's economic power as leverage
threatening to scale back Japan's ODA and reducing its voluntary
contributions to the United Nations.

"I believe this would be counter-productive, and unworthy of
Japan's high standing in the world, not to mention its people's
generosity of heart," Annan told a Japanese audience in Tokyo last

But one Third World diplomat says that there is obviously a limit
to what money can - and cannot buy. "Japan's unsuccessful bid for
a permanent seat is an indication of where one could draw the
line," he notes. (END/IPS/IP/td/da/00)
Corporate Watch in Japanese
Transnational Resource and Action Center (TRAC)
P.O. Box 29344
San Francisco, CA 94129 USA
Tel: 1-415-561-6472
Fax: 1-415-561-6493
The Corporate Watch in Japanese (CWJ)
mailing list is a moderated email list in English designed to connect
activists campaigning against Japanese corporations and investments around
the world.
To unsubscribe from the CWJ mailing list, send an email to with text "unsubscribe cwj".  To subscribe to the CWJ
mailing list, send a message to with the text
"subscribe cwj"
The CWJ mailing list is NOT intended for wide distribution.  If you would
like to post messages from this list somewhere else, we ask that you first
contact us at

Return to Index
Return to cwj HOME