UN Chief Urges Japanese To Enhance Military Role
Tokyo's quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council brings calls for contributions
IN its quiet pursuit of a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, Japan is finding it must jump through many more hoops than expected.
Japan invited UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to Tokyo this week only to discover that he wants Japanese troops to join the UN's peacekeeping mission in Mozambique - just to prove that "Japan has a global approach."
The informal request came five months after Japan sent troops to Cambodia with UN forces, a historic action that was preceded by nearly two years of debate, protests, and anguish for the Japanese. But Mr. Boutros-Ghali criticized Japan for leaning too much toward Asia in its UN activities, and advised at least a "symbolic" troop presence in either Africa or Latin America.
His plea to Japan also appeared to be aimed at increasing its UN role as a way to dilute the post-cold-war influence of the United States. "People are saying the United Nations is under the influence of one power," he told reporters yesterday as he ended a five-day visit.
"It is true because this power is a very powerful power. But there is another reason. Because the other powers are not paying enough attention to the United Nations," he said. Japan is second to the US in pledged contributions to the UN. US supports quest
If Japan becomes more involved, Boutros-Ghali said, then it can bring "real democratization" in the UN, and "power will be divided between five, six, and 10 countries." The Council now has five permanent members with veto power: China, the US, France, Britain, and Russia.
The US supports Japan in its unofficial quest for a permanent Council seat, but also chides it for not committing more resources to new UN security operations.
Washington hopes Japan can provide political and financial help to Somalia, US Ambassador Michael Armacost indicated in a recent Tokyo speech. "Such evidence of Japan's readiness to play a leadership role - in an area remote from Japan's immediate interest - will, I believe, help persuade many nations that Japan has special contributions and capabilities to offer as a member of the Security Council."
Many Japanese leaders in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are eager to win a Council seat after decades in which Japan proclaimed a "UN-center diplomacy" but actually followed US policies more often. They also resent not being consulted on many major UN decisions even though they are a major funder.
"It is no secret we would like a permanent seat," says LDP parliament member Takujiro Hamada. "For Japan, the UN provides an excellent framework for moving toward the goal of becoming a normal member of the community of democratic nations.
"Japan could play a major role in a UN permanent military structure. Japanese troops would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our UN allies in this force," Mr. Hamada says.
But the LDP faces strong public opposition to and a constitutional restraint on overseas troop deployment. In fact, during his visit, the UN chief had to face protesters who oppose outside pressure on Japan to send more troops abroad or to change its "peace" Constitution. Transcending regions
Some Japanese officials say that Japan should concentrate mainly on leadership in Asia, or within the group of seven leading, industrialized nations, rather than try to be a leader at the UN. Boutros-Ghali said Japan has good prospects for obtaining a permanent Council seat and should "transcend regions."
Japanese officials were not eager to send troops to Mozambique, claiming little knowledge of the country and little public consensus for such a move. Japan set a legal limit last year of 2,000 soldiers for UN activities. With about 1,600 to 1,800 troops in Cambodia, that would leave only a few hundred for Mozambique.