Speech by H.E. Mr. Tsuneo Nishida
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
At the New Visions of Japan Annual Forum
1 June 2012
“Japan-U.S. cooperation at the United Nations”
Dr. Gene Block, Chancellor of UCLA,
Dr. Paul Terasaki,
Dr. Hitoshi Abe, Director of the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies at UCLA,
The Honorable Senator Daniel Inoue,
Mr. Jim Zumwalt, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of State,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. Abe for inviting me to deliver a speech on the occasion of this “New Visions of Japan Annual Forum”. It is truly an honor to speak at this renowned institution in front of many prominent guests from various fields.
Allow me also to take this opportunity to offer my congratulations on the occasion of the 20th anniversary this year of the establishment of the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies. This center not only contributes greatly to providing an academic understanding of Japan but also deepens the exchanges between those who are working for a closer Japan-U.S. relationship. In this regard, I also want to acknowledge and congratulate Dr. Paul Terasaki for all he has done for the center.
I would like to add that Los Angeles is a city where I had numerous enjoyable experiences as Consul-General of Japan from August 1999 to March 2001. This city warms me not only in terms of its climate, but also through the hospitality of its people.
Let me start my speech by touching upon the Great East Japan Earthquake which struck my country on March 11th last year. This tragic disaster caused tremendous loss of life and enormous damage. But, at the same time, it reminded us of the importance of the “kizuna”, or bonds of friendship among us. Following the earthquake, people all over the world, including many here in Los Angeles, expressed their solidarity and extended support to the Japanese people. Dr. Abe at the Terasaki Center, who was born in Sendai, one of major cities struck by the earthquake, took upon himself the initiative to collect donations and organize various commemorative events including photo exhibitions held in L.A., Washington, and Chicago and a symposium entitled “Moving forward: life after the Great East Japan Earthquake” held on this campus last March.
The “kizuna” which unites the Japanese and American people forms the basis of the solid relationship between our two nations. This strong partnership was underscored by the valuable support extended by the U.S when it embarked on “Operation Tomodachi”, a military assistance mission to Japan which was launched immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake. We are deeply grateful to American personnel who stood side by side with afflicted people in the Tohoku region, listening to their needs and acting swiftly to assist them during that difficult time.
In the course of its over 60-year history, the United Nations has become a truly universal organization. The issues addressed by the UN now extend to all fields of human activity including peace and security, development, the environment, and human rights.
Take the so-called “Arab spring” as an example: ordinary citizens have realized drastic changes of regimes in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt. On the other hand, the Syrian crisis is continuing over a year. While mediation efforts by Mr. Kofi Annan, Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League, are under way, the world was deeply shocked by the recent intolerable massacre in the village of Houla. In such circumstances, how should the UN respond in order to protect civilians? Is the UN allowed to just be a bystander in front of continued bloodshed? If not, what can the UN do to restore peace? We need to look together for an answer to these questions.
In the field of development, world leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil this June to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20. Development and environmental challenges such as climate change are all inter-related. We must simultaneously pursue the dual imperatives of growth and the protection of the environment, that is, sustainable development. What is at stake in Rio+20 is whether we will be able to agree on a grand design for achieving sustainable development including a transition to a green economy.
Human rights are also one of major pillars of the UN activities. In particular, UNWomen, a new entity which was established in 2010, strives for gender equality and the empowerment of women. The world has achieved significant progress in terms of protection and promotion of human rights. The ongoing democratic process in Myanmar is a noteworthy case in this regard. However, there still persist undemocratic and inhuman situations in many parts of the world that the UN needs to tackle.
All these issues I just mentioned are interlinked. In a world undergoing rapid globalization, people cannot be indifferent to what is happening on the other side of the globe.
The United Nations is a forum where its 193 Member States gather to address various challenges that affect our everyday life. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rightly pointed out, the UN is uniquely positioned to facilitate action through providing integrated solutions across interconnected issues. As the world order is becoming increasingly more complicated to maintain, only the UN can lay claim to the universality and specialization required to address today’s myriad challenges.
As Japan’s permanent representative to the UN, I believe that the United Nations offers an important venue for the Japan-US relationship to extend to the multilateral sphere.
Non-proliferation and counter-terrorism are among the most important common agendas for our two countries.
In light of this, Iran’s nuclear program is an issue of international concern. Along with other key members of the UN including the U.S., Japan is taking an approach of dialogue and pressure. In spite of our severe energy situation following the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan has been reducing its import of crude oil from Iran in order to express its concern on Iran’s lack of cooperation in the area of its nuclear program.
Iran and the EU3+3 countries, namely UK, France, Germany, the US, Russia, and China, are undertaking a series of consultations to settle this issue. Supporting the efforts by EU3+3, Japan, for its part, will continue to call upon all states concerned to seek a peaceful solution to the issue through diplomatic channels and to not escalate the situation.
One of the most urgent challenges on which our two countries are working closely together at the UN is the nuclear and missile program of North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
You may recall that North Korea launched a missile, which it called a “satellite”, on April 13. The international community reacted swiftly. On April 16, only three days after the launch, the Security Council issued a Presidential Statement condemning North Korea’s action as a violation of relevant Council resolutions. Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the U.S. worked closely to facilitate the early issuance of this statement. In this regard, Ambassador Susan Rice, Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the UN, played an instrumental role in exerting her leadership.
Following that statement, the UN Sanctions Committees on North Korea agreed on May 2 to tighten enforcement of existing sanctions. It is now important that the Member States follow up by implementing these measures.
Despite such measures, North Korea continues to pursue its weapons program. As reiterated at the G8 summit which was recently held at Camp David, we strongly demand that North Korea heed the voice of the international community, by complying with the relevant resolutions and not conducting any further launches, nuclear tests or other provocative actions.
With regard to its bilateral relations with North Korea, Japan is resolved to reach a comprehensive resolution to outstanding issues of concern including the abduction issue. The authorities of North Korea denied the occurrence of any abductions of this sort throughout the 1990s. However Prime Minister Koizumi’s visits to Pyongyang in 2002 and 2004 brought about drastic changes in this impasse: in the Pyongyang Declaration issued in 2002, both sides determined that they would make every effort for an early normalization of their relations through the settlement of outstanding issues. With respect to the abduction issue, North Korea admitted its involvement in the abduction of Japanese nationals. After intensive negotiations with North Korea, five abductees and their children were allowed to return to Japan. Nonetheless, the fate of the remaining twelve abductees remains unaccounted for. There are still other cases in which the possibility of abduction by North Korea cannot be ruled out.
In order to urge North Korea to engage more seriously in the abduction issue, Japan, together with the European Union, will again introduce a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in North Korea to the UN General Assembly this fall.
The families of the abductees are getting older. They simply wish to see their beloved ones once again. Among the victims, there is a girl who was only 13 years old when she was abducted. This is a serious violation of basic human rights. We would like the American people to continue to stand by us on this issue.
The Peace and development of Afghanistan are also of crucial importance at the UN.
Japan has been making active contributions to the process of consolidating peace in Afghanistan in close coordination with the United States. For instance, our two countries have jointly provided assistance for the construction of the highway, or so-called “Ring Road” which links the major cities of Afghanistan. Such cooperation contributes greatly to the development of Afghanistan, as building basic infrastructure helps not only to link cities together, but also to reunite people who were torn apart by a decades-long conflict.
Afghanistan is at a crossroads. Reconstruction efforts by the Afghans, with the support of the international community, have certainly realized significant improvements. However, there continues to be a severe security situation on the ground. We should not allow the country to become a safe haven for terrorists again.
The NATO summit held in Chicago last month confirmed the timetable for the handover of security responsibility to the Afghans and the withdrawal of international forces from combat operations by the end of 2014.
As Minister Gemba announced in Chicago, Japan will co-host with Afghanistan an international conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo this July. Among foreign dignitaries whom we would be greatly honored to have attend are Afghan’s President Hamid Karzai, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The conference will be convened at a crucial moment as Afghanistan enters a so-called “transformation decade” in which security responsibility will be transferred from international forces to the Afghan forces at the end of 2014. The world needs a clear picture as to how to support Afghanistan on its path towards self-reliance in security, improved governance, and economic and social development. The conference will be an important occasion to renew the mutual commitments between Afghanistan and the international community to that end. Together with the U.S. and other partners, Japan will continue to work actively towards a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
I guess some of you have had the opportunity to visit the UN headquarters in New York but you may not know that its buildings are currently under renovation. They had become so old and decrepit as to necessitate a rather intensive effort to restore them.
Like the buildings of the UN, the institution itself needs to be renovated. The role of the UN has taken on greater significance than ever before. In order for the UN to function more effectively, it must be reformed to adapt to changing realities in terms of both its budget and its structure.
First, with regard to budget issues, as the UN has been engaged in an increasing number of global issues, its budget has continued to grow. The regular budget for 2000-2001 was $2.6 billion. Ten years later, it doubled to reach $5.4 billion for the 2010-2011 fiscal period. The budget for peacekeeping operations, which is separate from the regular budget, has tripled from $2.5 billion to $7.8 billion over the past decade.
Given the current global financial crisis, allowing such growth to continue is not feasible. The U.S. and Japan, as the first and second largest financial contributors to the United Nations respectively, attach great importance to improving efficiency, observing financial discipline and ensuring accountability while acknowledging the need to allocate the resources necessary to implement a prioritized agenda.
Thanks to the tireless efforts made by major financial contributing countries including the U.S. and Japan, last December, the General Assembly adopted the first regular budget since 1998 that has decreased in comparison with the previous budget. This was an important step in the right direction.
Recently, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a major initiative to change the management of the UN with a view to enhancing the efficiency and transparency of the Organization. The major driver behind this initiative is “to do more with less”. Welcoming this initiative, Japan will continue to cooperate with the United States and other partners to realize an effective and efficient UN.
Second, with regard to structural reform, the current structure of the UN is, to put it simply, outdated. The world architecture has been evolving with the rise of emerging countries such as BRICs. In addition to the G8, the United States convened an initial G20 summit meeting in 2008. Other groups of like-minded countries are being set up to discuss topics of mutual interest or concern such as the six party-talks on North Korea, the E3+3 on Iran, and the quartet on Middle East peace talks. It is only natural that those who have power and stakes should be able to have their say in appropriate forums. The same applies to the management of UN as well. It is necessary to build mechanisms to encourage new or emerging countries, which have both the capacity and responsibility, to play a more active role in the UN. Through such efforts, the legitimacy of the UN in global governance can be restored and reinforced.
In particular, we need to realize the long-overdue task of reforming the Security Council. The world needs a Security Council that can address present challenges with greater representation, legitimacy, and effectiveness.
Despite profound changes in global realities, the basic structure of the Security Council has not changed significantly from its original composition since it was formed in 1945. While the number of UN member states has grown from 51 countries in 1945 to 193 countries today, the Council’s membership has been increased only once, in 1965, from 11 to 15, through an increase in the number of non-permanent members from 6 to 10. Since then, the number of the Council members remains at 15, with 5 permanent and 10 non-permanent seats.
The Member States have been debating this issue for about 20 years. While there is broad consensus on the necessity of Security Council reform, differences of view still remain as to how to proceed. The key issues are, among others, the size of an enlarged Council and the categories of membership.
Japan is of the view that the numbers of both the permanent and non-permanent seats on the Security Council should be expanded in order to better reflect the realities of today’s world. A large number of Member States have expressed their support for the expansion of the Council in both categories.
The U.S. supports Japan becoming a new permanent member. We are grateful for that. Nevertheless, the 5 permanent members including the U.S., which enjoy great privileges under the current system, are, regrettably, not really enthusiastic about reform. Still, the decisions made by the Council bind all UN Member States. If its outdated structure remains unchanged, the legitimacy of the council itself might be undermined.
The UN is now in the process of conducting intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform. Japan will spare no effort to advance constructive and results-oriented discussions. It is my hope that the U.S. will stand ready to move forward with us in this endeavor.
For more than half a century, the Japan-U.S. Alliance has been the cornerstone of peace, security, and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Our two counties share a commitment to democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and a market economy. I am confident that these values will continue to guide us as we make efforts together at the United Nations to address the global challenges of our time.
Thank you for your attention.