JAPAN no longer wants to be an 'enemy' of the world - and it has taken its plea to the top of the United Nations. With the Cold War over and the UN playing a larger world role, Japan wants to cast off its embarrassing label.
Forty-seven years ago, at the end of the Second World War, horror at Japanese wartime atrocities provoked some Allied leaders to call for the expulsion of Japan from the ranks of civilised nations.
Passions have subsided, but have left behind a painful legacy for Japan and the other Axis powers, Germany and Italy: when the UN Charter was drawn up, Articles 53 and 107 referred to the three countries as 'enemy nations' - a description that has never been deleted. In a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Michio Watanabe, Japan's Foreign Minister, said the 'enemy nations' clauses were 'historical relics' from a distant past.
The day before, in a meeting with the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, Mr Watanabe requested that the clauses be dropped from the Charter. Japanese officials said Mr Boutros-Ghali was sympathetic and said he hoped the 'enemy' clauses could be dropped by 1995, the UN's 50th anniversary.
With the possible exception of some of Japan's Asian neighbours, few UN members would oppose the dropping of the enemy clause today. But standing in Japan's way are fears that the rewriting of Articles 53 and 107 might prompt a host of demands for more controversial revisions of the Charter.
Being delisted as an 'enemy' is a goal long harboured by Japan. It is a vital first step in Tokyo's larger ambition to gain a permanent seat on the Security Council. The five permanent members are the victors in the Second World War - US, Russia, China, France and Britain.
Japan, and other large regional powers such as India and Brazil, claim that the make-up of the 'Perm Five' no longer fairly represents the world's interests. Asia, with two-thirds of the world's population, is represented only by China - a Communist country amid the fastest growing economies in the world.
Japanese officials point out that they pay one-eighth of the UN's expenses, have the second largest economy in the world and the second largest international aid programme (behind the US in each case). Japan is keen to expand its foreign policy from the cheque-book diplomacy of the past. After anguished debate about the anti-war clause in Japan's constitution, the Japanese parliament agreed this summer to send Japanese troops to Cambodia to take part in UN peace-keeping operations.
However, Tokyo knows that its ambitions are regarded with suspicion by many of its Asian neighbours who suffered under Japanese military control during the war. It is pursuing a characteristically low-key 'water dripping on stone' strategy in its quest for a permanent seat on the Security Council. In his speech, Mr Watanabe referred discreetly only to the need to change the 'composition' of the Security Council.
The Perm Five are reluctant to dilute their monopoly on veto power in the Security Council. Japanese diplomats will have to be patient, although Japan's ability to use its economic bargaining power increases daily. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry is floating a proposal to combine the members of the Group of Seven industrialised nations - of which Japan is a member - with the Perm Five to produce a joint consultative mechanism. This could include Japan in a loop of consultation from which it feels bitterly excluded - in the Gulf war, Tokyo received little advance notification of decisions taken by the US-led coalition. Leaving Japan out of the loop, as in the 20 years before Pearl Harbor, has dangerous precedents.
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