FM spokesman: UN is not a "board of directors"
Brazil, Germany, India and Japan launched a united bid for permanent UN
Security Council seats, arguing that expanded membership was crucial to
addressing new global threats.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said in Beijing on Tuesday that the United Nations Security Council was "not a board of directors" and its composition should not be decided "according to the financial contribution of its members."
A joint declaration said all four countries, "based on the firmly shared recognition that they are legitimate candidates for permanent membership in an expanded Security Council, support each other's candidature."
The statement followed a meeting between Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and the Indian and Japanese prime ministers, Manmohan Singh and Junichiro Koizumi, at a New York hotel on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Their proposal, which also envisages a permanent seat for Africa and an expansion of the non-permanent Council membership, would represent the largest shake-up at the top decision-making body of the United Nations in its nearly 60-year history.
Reform of the 15-nation Security Council has the firm support of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who set up a high-level panel that is scheduled to offer concrete proposals for change in December.
The council has had the same five permanent members with veto power -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- since the United Nations was established in the wake of World War II.
Reform of the council, which passes resolutions that are legally binding on the UN's 191 member states, is seen as overdue by many observers, both supporters and critics of the institution alike.
Annan has said the question of reform took on added urgency after last year's crisis over Iraq, when the United States went to war without the backing of the council.
"In order for the international community to effectively address the various threats and challenges that it presently faces, it is important to reform the United Nations as a whole," Tuesday's joint statement said.
The common front established by the four nations contains compelling individual claims for permanent Council membership.
"All four states regard themselves as natural candidates," Fischer said after the meeting, "based on what they are doing for the UN, what they are capable of doing and also because of their regional roles."
Old regional animosities, however, are likely to ensure that none enjoys an easy ride.
Pakistan could find it hard to accept India, their nuclear-armed neighbour, while Italy, a solid ally of the United States in Iraq, has already said it will oppose Germany, which did not back the war.
Brazil's bid might get a lukewarm reception in Mexico and Argentina, and China on Tuesday indicated reservations over Japan's candidacy, saying the UN was "not a board of directors" whose composition could be decided by "the financial contribution of its members."
At least one of the five current permanent members, Britain, has already voiced its support for all four bids.
Addressing the General Assembly later in the day, Koizumi fleshed out Japan's credentials, pointing to its reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as its "leading role" in talks to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.
"Countries with the will and resources to play a major role in international peace and security must always take part in the Council's decision-making process," he said.
Koizumi also claimed a unique voice for Japan as the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack.
The reform question has been thrown back and forth for years and it remains to be seen whether Annan's panel can come up with a working or acceptable plan.
Meanwhile no consensus has emerged on who should represent Africa, and there
is debate over whether geographical criteria alone are sufficient, with many
since the Iraq war now pushing for a dedicated seat for a Muslim nation.
Question: The UN is discussing how to reform the Security Council. Japan is seeking the position of a permanent member of the Security Council. What is China's view on Japan's intention, especially from the financial perspective? And what is China's stance from the historical perspective? The financial perspective refers to the fact that Japan has been covering some 20% of the UN financial revenue.
Answer: The United Nations has been established for nearly 60 years. The organization has undergone great changes. Reforms need to be carried out over the UN, including the Security Council. The reform should proceed from some basic points. First, the Security Council should give priority to increasing the representativeness of the developing countries. The UN now has more than 190 members, most of which are developing countries. However, this has not been fully reflected in the Security Council. Second, one of the fundamental goals of the reform of the Security Council and the UN is to improve work efficiency so as to cope with the challenges. This is also the consensus of the international community. Third, the reform of the Security Council involves a wide range of issues, which concern various parties. We believe that this issue should be dealt with in a gradual manner under the consensus reached by various parties. There should not be a rigid timetable for it. UN Secretary-General Annan has appointed a high-profile panel, including former Vice-Premier Qian Qichen of China, to handle the reform of the Security Council. This panel has held several meetings and solicited opinions from various parties. The panel plans to submit suggestions to the Secretary-General before the end of this year. We hope that they could come up with some major thoughts so that the UN member states could hold extensive discussions and reach consensus.
As to the membership fee and the historical question, first, the UN Security Council is not like a board of directors of a company. It is not composed according to the amount of contribution a country pays. Second, I remember last time I stated that we understood Japan's expectation to play a greater role in international affairs. But we also believe that if a country wishes to play a responsible role in international affairs, it must have a clear understanding of the historical questions concerning itself.