Support from neighbors firstJapan has long aspired to be a member of the mighty UN Security Council. Given Japan’s status as the third-largest economy in the world and its considerable contribution to the international community, Tokyo’s ambition deserves credit. The country has devoted every diplomatic effort to realizing its cherished dream by establishing entry into the exclusive club as a national goal. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trips to the Middle East and Africa at the beginning of 2014 can be understood in such a light.
Abe drew support for Japan’s membership on the Council from Cote d’Ivoire (formerly Ivory Coast), Mozambique and Ethiopia on his trip. The heads of the three African nations welcomed Japan’s resolution to promote peace and stability around the globe under the banner of so-called assertive pacifism and endorsed Japan joining the powerful club. At every stop in that underdeveloped continent, Abe promised various types of economic support - including Official Development Assistance (ODA) - not to mention humanitarian aid to the needy.
The number of UN member nations has soared to 193 from 51 when it was founded in 1945. The cold war era ended long ago. But the UN Security Council regime - centered on the five winners of World War II - has remained intact for nearly seven decades. The system inevitably needs reform to better reflect the changing global environment. Japan has been paying the largest share of expenses for the UN, only second to the United States, on top of its significant contribution to UN peacekeeping missions. Such a remarkable shift calls for a rethinking of the paramount UN body to better embody democracy in its decision-making and reinforce transparency and responsibility.
But the Security Council fell short of reaching a conclusion on the issue due to conflict of interests among member nations.
In order for Japan to become a permanent member of the council it needs to draw support from Africa, which has numerical strength in the General Assembly. More importantly, however, it must secure support from its neighbors - such as Korea and China - who were victimized by Japan’s imperialism not that long ago.
Japan cannot in any way win without the support of China, one of the five permanent members of the group. Japan must reaffirm the veracity of its oxymoronic “assertive pacifism” through genuine self-reflection and contrition for its shameful, aggression-ridden past. Only then can we support Tokyo’s joining the UN club without reservation.