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    Lack of safety in numbers

    In its campaign for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Japan has been reduced to trumpeting that it’s gotten the support of…Tunisia.

    There was an interesting article in the Asahi about Japan’s screw-ups on the issue (the piece is from a few weeks ago–this is one of those posts I started and then somehow never finished):

    Japan made two serious miscalculations that have all but sunk its strategy to win a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

    Tokyo overestimated support from the United States by failing to recognize that U.S. interests come first in Washington, not the desires of a key ally. [Duh.–SRK]

    The second mistake was Tokyo’s underestimation of anger against Japan in China, which has used its growing influence in the world to thwart Tokyo’s long-cherished dream to join the exclusive club at the United Nations.

    Foreign Minister Machimura’s tour through Brunei, Vietnam, and Cambodia to drum up support didn’t work so hot–relations with China are important to everyone in the region. Its position right about now is pretty clear, and that makes it hard for its southern neighbors to cross it.

    Part of the problem is, though that the G-4 strategy (that is, banding together with Germany, India, and Brazil to push for a set of seats) carried risks that are inherent, predating the recent flare-up of troubles with China. This English Yomiuri article explains one main disadvantage:

    Another government source, however, was pessimistic about maintaining the G-4 position.

    “As the United States doesn’t want to see the European Union getting more say on the international stage, Germany’s permanent membership, at least, was out of the question for Washington. Berlin must have been shocked by the U.S. announcement, and the G-4 may end up in disarray,” the source said.

    Grouping resources allowed the candidate countries more angles from which to massage support out of less-strategic governments, but it also meant that they all stood or fell on each other’s alliances and enmities. Need it be pointed out that all these countries have their enemies? We in Japan have been paying the most attention to China, for obvious reasons. But Pakistan has made its feelings known, too.

    That the Bush administration seriously supports Japan but does not want a permanent seat for Germany along with it is believable enough. (Reuters has a summary of the Thursday announcements here, BTW.) Let’s not forget that the issues surrounding Article 9 of the constitution–which obviously affects whether Japan can participate in collective military defense–have not been resolved. Prime Minister Koizumi has promised to push on with the G-4 plan, but it seems inevitable that the group will, some time after its coming Brussels confab, be announcing its own face-saving postponement to deal with other matters.

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