July 25, 2005

Japan minister may lobby for U.N. seat in New York

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka
Machimura looked likely on Tuesday to skip a regional gathering
in Laos this week in favor of seeking support in New York for
Japan's bid for a permanent membership on the United Nations
Security Council.

Machimura and foreign ministers from Brazil, Germany and
India agreed at talks in London on Monday to work with African
countries to formulate a joint proposal for council expansion.

The move came after the four -- contenders for new
permanent seats on the United Nation's elite decision-making
body -- failed to win support from the African Union for their
own plan.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Machimura had expressed
his intention to go to New York and was thus unlikely to attend
a series of regional meetings that start in Laos from
Wednesday, including one on Asia-Pacific security, a decision
that other Asian countries might see as a snub.

"There is disappointment," Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi
Suphamongkhon said in Vientiane on Tuesday. "We understand our
Japanese counterpart cannot join us because of the G4
situation. Of course we are disappointed."

Japan this year stepped up its decade-old drive for a
permanent seat, eager to win diplomatic recognition equal to
its economic clout and what it sees as a well-deserved position
since it foots about 20 percent of the world body's bills.

But the campaign has faced opposition from China and
received only halfhearted support from Tokyo's close ally, the
United States.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said he wanted the
General Assembly to decide by the time of a U.N. summit in
September, arguing that the council's make-up reflects the
balance of power at the end of World War II and must be

The 15-member council has five permanent members with
veto-power -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United
States -- and 10 nonpermanent rotating members.


Japan, Germany, Brazil and India, known as the Group of
Four, have called on the General Assembly to enlarge the
Security Council to 25 states from 15 to boost their
international status.

The G-4 plan envisages six new permanent seats, including
two for Africa, but new members would not have veto power.

The African body wants to enlarge the council to 26 seats.
Its proposal for six new permanent seats is the same as the G-4
except that it would give the new members veto privileges.

To have any hope of gaining the two-thirds approval in the
191-member General Assembly needed for reform, they need
substantial support from the 53-member African Union.

Machimura told reporters in London that the G-4 would agree
to the African Union plan to expand the number of new
nonpermanent members by five instead of four, Kyodo news agency

African diplomats said Nigeria favored dropping the AU's
insistence on a veto, but suggested others disagreed.

Japan's top government spokesman, Hiroyku Hosoda, told a
news conference that nothing had been finalized. "The AU will
also take the G-4's revision proposals back with them and
consider them," he said.

"They will try to get as much support as possible."

Japan's diplomats would be hugely embarrassed if its
high-profile campaign for a permanent presence on the Security
Council fails, analysts have said.

Failure would likely prompt a backlash among some
politicians at China and deepen concern in some circles about
the benefits of Japan's alliance with the United States.

Sino-Japanese ties have chilled due to a series of disputes
including a feud over what many Chinese see as Tokyo's failure
to own up to its wartime atrocities, and Tokyo's U.N. bid was
one factor that triggered sometimes violent anti-Japanese
protests in Chinese cities in April.