The US has endorsed Japan’s bid for permanent membership of the United Nation’s Security Council, but Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, once again failed to win US support for a similar seat for his country when he met with President George W. Bush last month.on June 27.“We oppose no country’s bid for the Security Council,” Mr Bush said after the two met – hardly an endorsement.

What has Japan done to win the American backing for a permanent Security Council seat that Germany has not? Supporting the war in Iraq would seem to be the answer, since by any other criteria Germany appears the stronger candidate.

The granting of permanent Security Council seats to either of the two nations, still identified in the UN Charter as “enemy states”, should logically be determined by the answers to three questions. First, Have they states in question fully overcome the legacy of their responsibility for the second world war WWII? Second, Are they states willing and able to undertake the responsibilities of permanent membership? Third, Are future governments in Tokyo and Berlin likely to work co-operatively with Washington? on issues that come before the Security Council?

There is no doubt that both Japan and Germany pass the first two tests. Over the past sixty 60 years, both states have become model international citizens. Both have acknowledged their war guilt. Germany has done so more frequently and more unequivocally. Both states have sought to settle remaining differences and overcome historic antagonisms with their neighbours. Again, Germany has done so more successfully, settling all outstanding territorial disputes and becoming fully reconciled with all the other victims of its aggression. Japan, in contrast, has not settled all such territorial disputes, andis still regarded with considerable hostility and suspicion not just by its cold war adversaries, Russia and China, but also also by Cold War allies like such as South Korea and the Philippines.

Japan and Germany are both bigger than Britain or France, and both are more economically powerful than any current member of the Security Council except the US. There is, therefore, no doubt as to their capability to sustain the responsibilities of permanent membership. On the other hand, both nations have developed a strong pacifist strain in their foreign and defence policies in reaction to their earlier militarism. As a result, both governments face strong domestic opposition to any use of military force abroad, even in pursuit of humanitarian operationssanctioned by the UNSecurity Council. Again, both states have moved in recent years to overcome these inhibitions so as to be able to share more fully in the growing burden of international peacekeeping and peace enforcement actions. Again, Germany has moved further than Japan. Tens of thousands of German combat troops have served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Indeed, Germany assumed overall command of all the multinational forces in the two latter instances.So far Japan’s military deployments have been limited to smaller numbers of humanitarian personnel, and the troops needed for their immediate protection.

As regards the third test, support for American policy, again both states score positively here here too. Again, Once more, Iraq excepted, Germany leads. The Nato treaty requires Germany to treat an attack on the US as if it were an attack on Germany. In the aftermath of the September 11 2001 9/11attacks, Germany did just that, invoked article five of the Nato charter and dispatched combat forces to Afghanistan in support of the US. Japan did neither.Unlike the Nato charter, the American alliance with Japan requires the latter to do no more than co-operate in its own defence. There has never been an commitment or anoffer by Japan to send troops to fight alongside American soldiers anywhere., even in the case of an attack on other Asian allies like South Korea, the Philippines or Taiwan. Japan has provided generous economic aid to crisis regions in Asia and beyond, but still lags behind in its willingness to share the risks of military action.

In sum, both states have earned American support in their quest for permanent membership in the UN Security Council, with Germany having done more in most respects.

In announcing American opposition to German permanent membership, the State department of Statemaintained that Europe was already over-represented on the Security Council. While true, this rationale hardly suffices to explain American policy. Effectively, the State department is arguing that it is unfair for the US to have sotoo many allies on the Security Council, and improbably suggesting that Washington would prefer to see proportionally greater representation on the Council for its critics from the non-aligned nations of Asia, Africa, Latin American and the Middle East.

Clearly the State department has had recourse to this bit of diplomatic smoke in order to obscure, however superficially, its true rationale. Japan is being rewarded and Germany is being punished for their stances on Iraq.

Fair enough. “What have you done for me lately?” is a familiar enough staple of international discourse, if not a mark of high statecraft. The real question is whether Washington’s current stance is designed simply to deny Chancellor Mr Schröder a major foreign policy victory before Germany’s national elections this autumn, currently expected for this fall, or whether the US will persist in this attitude thereafter.

Even assuming the intent is purely tactical, Washington’s ploy is likely to be costly. Chancellor Mr Schröder is not going to be the only German to take Washington’s rebuff personally. Nevertheless, if Washington reverses course after the upcoming German elections, its current opposition to German permanent membership may be seen as a tough-minded example of diplomatic hardball. Mr Bush’s equivocal statement after his June 27 meeting meeting with Mr Schröder leaves the door open to such a possibility.

If, on the other hand,But if the US persists in this attitude to the point where Japan gains a permanent seat and Germany does not, then the Bush administration will have turned a temporary rift into an enduring grievance, one which will be remembered by America’s largest European ally long after current differences over Iraq have been forgotten.

The writer, isa former assistant secretary of state for Europe, is currently director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation

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