Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

United Nations Reform and Japan's Foreign Policy
MURATA Koji / Associate Professor at Doshisha University

December 4, 2003
In the year 2003 we have seen war in Iraq and a state of confusion following the fighting there as nations have decided how to support rebuilding efforts there. These events have provided the Japanese with a valuable opportunity to reconsider the role of the United Nations on the international political scene. Japan's foreign policy is often described as somewhat naive in its placement of the UN at the center of the global community. While I do not intend to get into the question of this "UN-centered diplomacy," I will point out that the very nature of the UN --a place not only for international coordination, but a forum where rival national interests clash with one another--does mean that a UN-centered approach to foreign policy can at times lead to inaction or provide a pretext for avoiding consideration of tough issues. I do believe that the Japanese are today coming to realize this truth about that world body.

There are a few observers stridently stating that the United Nations is no longer needed in today's world. But while the UN cannot be expected to solve all problems, there certainly are some that it can address effectively. We must not lose sight of the fact that there is more to the UN than the Security Council alone. We must give proper recognition to the low-profile work carried out every day by the numerous UN agencies. It is a shame that the intellectual community in Japan today gives itself over to such wild swings in its arguments--one day glorifying the role of the United Nations and the next day decrying the organization as unnecessary. This can only be called a sign of the immaturity of that community. Debate in Japan is carried out in the closed linguistic space of the Japanese language, focusing primarily on domestic public opinion. In this sense these trends in Japan's thought are indicative of an inability to take responsibility for the opinions in a more global arena.

Today Japanese diplomacy has reached a crucial moment of truth. The nation provides nearly 20% of all United Nations dues, but has not been tapped to fill a permanent spot on the UNSC despite expressing a desire for permanent membership for the last decade. Why is this? Why is it that Japan, along with Germany and Italy, continues to be treated as an "enemy state" in line with the text of Article 53 of the UN Charter--an article that is today an empty declaration given the changes that have taken place in the world since World War II? It is in Japan's national interests to continue to confront the global community with questions like these even as it fulfills its international responsibilities, supporting the reconstruction of Iraq in visible ways. It is also in the interests of fairness in the global community for Japan to do so. Japanese foreign policy choices are often criticized as not being in line with the country's true interests or as lacking a sense of justice in the international context. But the reform of the United Nations is a theme that Japan can work into its foreign policy from the perspectives of both its own interests and global fairness.

This reform does not need to be limited to areas like reworking the Security Council and doing away with the "enemy states" article. Reform is also needed in the UN Secretariat and in the various UN agencies. Without a comprehensive vision for this reform Japan will not be able to secure the active support of other nations toward its achievement. On the domestic front, Japan must also be ready to see the arguments of some politicians and intellectuals, who insist that Japan should stop bearing the financial burdens of the UN if its demands are not met there, for what they are--the childish rants of people who do not understand what true diplomacy must be.

In 2006 Japan will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its joining the United Nations. The Japanese government needs to put together a realistic strategy for UN reform before then. Looking back on Japan's entry into the world body, we can see that 1956 was also a trying time for Japanese diplomacy, with Japan's national interests clashing with those of the Soviet Union as the two states negotiated the normalization of relations between them. If the Japanese government today is to establish a realistic roadmap for reforming the United Nations, it will need first to foster a more balanced understanding of that international organization among the Japanese people.

The writer is Associate Professor of Faculty of Law at Doshisha University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

村田晃嗣 / 同志社大学助教授

2003年 12月 4日





一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > United Nations Reform and Japan's Foreign Policy