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PRESS CONFERENCE BY JAPAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

27 July 2005

Japan’s Foreign Minister, Nobutaka Machimura, briefed correspondents this afternoon at Headquarters on Security Council reform, in the wake of a ministerial meeting in London of the “G-4” and African Union countries, and the introduction this month in the General Assembly of competing draft resolutions on Council reform –- by the “G-4/AU” and the so-called “Uniting for Consensus” group.

The “Group of Four” (“G-4”) refers to Japan, Brazil, Germany and India, all of whom are aspiring to become permanent members of the Security Council. Their proposal, introduced on 11 July, would have the Assembly increase the Council’s membership from 15 to 25, by adding six permanent and four non-permanent members. The six new permanent members would be elected according to the following pattern: two from African States; two from Asian States; one from Latin American and CaribbeanStates; and one from Western European and Other States. (The new permanent members would not have the veto for 15 years.) Of the four new non-permanent members, there would be one each from the following Groups of States Africa; Asia; Eastern Europe; and Latin American and the Caribbean.

(For details of the introduction of the G-4/AU draft resolution, see Press Release GA/10367 of 11 July. For details of the introduction of the draft resolution by the 12-strong group of Member States known as “United for Consensus”, see Press Release GA/10371 of 26 July).

Mr. Machimura explained that, following the ministerial-level meeting in London of the G-4 and African Union, he had been asked by his G-4 counterparts to brief the General Assembly President and the Secretary-General on the meeting’s outcome. He had met with the Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, Alpha Oumar Konare (Mali), as well as with representatives of co-sponsoring and other interested countries. He had been able to provide everyone with an overview of the agreement that had emerged from the meeting and to explain the thinking of the G-4 and Japan on Security Council and United Nations reform.

He said that the agreement that had been reached at the London meeting concerned the addition of one country, making the proposed number of non-permanent members to 26 instead of the 25 suggested by the G-4. The other issue had concerned the veto, which had been contained in the African Union draft resolution. The understanding reached was to make that proposal mirror what was in the G-4 proposal. A decision had been made to come up with a combined draft resolution. That had been an extremely important meeting, at which it had been possible to reaffirm the intention to work together to reform the Council.

Following the London meeting, he said he had been informed that preparations were under way for an extraordinary summit meeting of the African Union on 4 August. Mr. Konare had indicated his desire to confirm the unity among the Afrcan Union countries at that meeting, and he had emphasized the importance of doing so. The draft resolution’s adoption required the support of the 53 African countries.

As far as the timing of putting the draft to a vote was concerned, there were several issues to think about, he said. The outcome of the upcoming African Union summit was one. The other issue concerned progress with respect to the outcome document for the United Nations’ September Summit. With those things in mind, it was the common goal of the G-4 countries to put the issue to a vote “at the earliest possible date”.

A correspondent noted that Italy’s representative yesterday in the General Assembly, on behalf of the 12-strong group of Member States known as United for Consensus, had said that the G-4 was guilty of blackmailing the United Nations by taking undue advantages of others’ vital needs and of poisoning the atmosphere. He asked the Foreign Minister for his general reaction to that charge, and also whether Japan’s pledge to double official development assistance (ODA) was linked to the African Union’s potential support or lack of support for a permanent seat for Japan.

Mr. Machimura said that those kinds of remarks were typical of what he would call “negative campaigning”. He refused to react to such comments, because he did not wish to sink that low.

As far as the issue of doubling ODA, he recalled that Japan’s Prime Minister had pledged in April during the Africa/Asia summit to double the ODA to Africa over the next three years. Since the 1990s, Japan had expressed great interest in Africa and had supported the continent in various ways. Doubling the ODA was a “mere extension” of that and had absolutely nothing to do with Japan’s position with respect to the Security Council.

Asked for a reaction to the belief of some countries that the G-4 wanted permanent membership for themselves and not for the region, he noted that China was a permanent member of the Council, “which was very good”. But, China alone was the voice of Asia. No South American or African countries were permanent Council members. The G-4 was trying to strike “a more appropriate balance” between the regions. It had in mind when it began its activities to give due consideration to regional balance and national strength. The addition of two countries from Africa would provide a better balance.

Replying to a question about how votes would be affected in light of the split that had emerged within the African Union, and the fact that Africa was being asked to carry the Middle East and North Africa and ensure they got a seat, he conceded that there were various opinions on the various issues within Africa, itself, but that diversity of opinion would not necessarily detract from the Union’s unity or solidarity. His understanding was shared by Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s President and African Union Chairman.

He added that, if the question was whether those differing opinions led to a division, the 4 August summit would reveal the exact situation. Although he could estimate the number of potential votes for the draft, he was not able to give a number of votes from African countries. The AU/G-4 agreement had been reached and, if at the African Union summit there was a confirmation of that agreement, then he believed a great majority of countries would support the joint text.

If Japan failed in its bid for a Security Council seat, would there be pressure at home to reduce the level of support for the United Nations? another correspondent asked.

Mr. Machimura said, to use an American phrase, “we’re very close to the goal”, adding that he expected to “make that goal”. So thinking that goal was unattainable was just not appropriate now. At a town meeting in Japan last week on the issue of United Nations reform, there had been an indication of a national sentiment for lessening support, if Japan did not win a permanent Council seat, but the Japanese Government was not thinking about what might be done in such a case, because it believed it would become one of the new permanent members. His Government had absolutely no policy concerning what might occur in the event it did not win a seat, because it thought it would. There would be an increase in national sentiment to reduce its United Nations’ contribution, but his Government had made no decision about what might transpire.

Replying to a further question about the number of votes, he reminded correspondents that, with 53 Member States, the African Union accounted for more than one quarter of the Organization’s Members. To gain the two thirds it needed required the support of the African Union countries -– “because that is the environment that we find ourselves in”, he explained. Without the support of any of the African Union countries, it would be impossible for Japan to attain two thirds of the vote. So, he was working to garner the support of as many African Union countries as possible.

As to “how far Japan was willing to go in antagonizing China over the Security Council issue”, he said that if one separated the bilateral relationship from the Security Council issues, one would find that various efforts were under way to better those relations. In April, at the Asia-Africa summit, bilateral meetings had taken place at which such improvements were discussed. The relationship between the two countries would have an impact on Asia and globally.

As for Security Council reform, China had also felt that reform was necessary, but the content of their reform was different from Japan’s vision, he said. If that discussion was pursued, however, then eventually, it would be possible to find a common ground on the various points.

Concerning Japan’s contribution in Iraq, the subject of another question, he said his country was participating in humanitarian aid for Iraq’s recovery, but that was not directly tied to efforts to become a permanent Council member. Japan placed emphasis on engaging in activities that promoted peace, and it had been doing so for the past 60 years. So, it was active in Afghanistan and Iraq and in United Nations peacekeeping operations, such as in Timor-Leste and Cambodia. Those activities did not relate to joining the Council, but were efforts being undertaken for the sake of establishing world peace.

Returning to the question of China’s position, a correspondent asked whether the Foreign Minister believed China would block a resolution to change the United Nations Charter, if Japan was approved by a two-thirds vote.

The Foreign Minister said that, in terms of Security Council reform, one pillar of China’s view was to better reflect the voices of developing countries. The draft formulated by the G-4/AU called for six additional permanent seats and, of those, four would be developing countries. So, the joint resolution was completely aligned with Chinese thinking in that regard.

Furthermore, he said, the reform for the non-permanent category was also an area where changes had been proposed in a way that afforded a greater voice for developing countries. So, he did not think China would block the process in the end. Also, if he was able to win the support of two thirds of Member States, it was “unthinkable” that the existing permanent members, the so-called “P-5” – would not ratify such a resolution. Having said that, it was a reality that the P-5 had veto rights, so he would be very thorough in working hard to convince them.

Replying to a last question about delaying the target of putting the draft to a vote by the end of July and a possible loss of momentum, he said that the diameter of the pipe that had carried the tension forward was very large and strong, so he was not at all concerned about losing momentum. The work had been going on for more than two years, so a one-week delay did not worry him too much. There had been changes to the situation and he could accommodate those. For example, the 4 August summit had come about very rapidly, he said, adding “we take those changes in stride and move forward towards the goal -– in unity with the other G-4 countries”.

(Interpretation for the Foreign Minister from Japanese into English was provided by the Japanese Mission to the United Nations.)

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