Japan should have a seat at the table

By Dan Streib

1945. In this year, the great war that took place after the Great War, the war that succeeded the “War to end all wars” in date but not in violence, finally came to a close. In this same year, a world that had not known such violence and murder in modern times came together and formed an organization that would seek to keep it from breaking apart again. This new endeavor was dubbed the United Nations.

Those spearheading the idea of the United Nations decided that a newly formed security council would consist of five permanent members and 10 rotating ones to maintain international stability. It was decided that the five most influential nations of the world at that time would wield the most power: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. But despite the enormous changes the world has seen over the past six decades, no new permanent members have been allowed to join. But with the emergence of Germany and Japan as principal funders of the U.N., that should change.

Germany and Japan both now provide the most funding for the U.N. of any nations in the world besides the United States. Although these economic giants are very generous in their contributions, it is important to not allow permanent Security Council membership to be based on funding alone. If such a precedent is established, strong but unworthy countries could use donations to the U.N. as a tool to manipulate their way in to a permanent position on the Council. Yet, when a state gives so much money, it at least deserves to have its potential worth to the Council evaluated. When judging the benefit that the addition of the two nations would provide, one finds Germany with its membership in the European Union to be a redundancy of France, which also shares such membership. Yet with Japan, one finds a unique nation whose permanent membership would greatly benefit the Council.

Japan may indeed have close ties to the United States but unlike Germany’s relationship with France, there is zero potential of shared currency like that which Germany and France currently possess. Japan does have close economic ties to America, but its mercantilist tendencies and improving relations across East Asia ensure that it will not be adopting the dollar anytime soon.

Furthermore, although many international observers note only Japan’s relaxing of its defensive-only military in the case of its contributions to the War on Terror, Paul Midford of the Japan Program at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology notes that many Japanese believe that offensive military power does not “have much utility for ‘destroying terrorist networks or suppressing weapons of mass destruction proliferation,’ or for ‘offensive liberal’ objectives ‘such as promoting democracy or human rights.'” This was noteworthy enough to be mentioned by the East-West Center – a think tank that the Council on Foreign Relations puts stock in. Japan is obviously culturally and economically separate from the United States, but many people forget that Japan does not seek to follow America’s every move in foreign policy either.

So Japan is distinct, but is it important? With the second largest gross domestic product in the world and a devotion to peace, tolerance and environmentalism, Japan holds many of the same values as the U.N. itself. And with its seemingly unshakable economic clout (it even managed to recover from its slump in the ’90s), strengthening military, democratic tendencies and great influence on East Asia, no one should oppose Japan’s membership to the U.N. Security Council.

And yet, one major roadblock to Japan’s inclusion on the Council, is, in a word, China. But if the People’s Republic of China vetoes Japan’s entry to the Council, it is merely adding one more reason for the world to boycott its hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games. But that’s another column.

President Bush has recently said that Japan is “well qualified” for a permanent spot on the Council. That Japan deserves this place on the world stage is obvious and now the real issue is whether the Council can prove itself worthy of Japan.