Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Japan at the UN General Assembly

PM Kishida Defends Human Dignity at the UN
Or Does He?

By Takuya Nishimura, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
September 25, 2023. Special to Asia Policy Point

To exercise Japan’s leadership in the international community, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida focused on “human dignity” in his speech at the General Debate of United Nations General Assembly on September 19th. Citing Japan’s non-permanent membership in UN Security Council and presidency in Group of Seven, Kishida proposed A World Caring for Human Dignity to “respond to the desperate desire for Peace and the pleas of vulnerable people seeking help.” So, what would Japan do for that?

Kishida insisted that Japan had led human-centered international cooperation, based on the concept of human security. In the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, then Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori declared that Japan would put “human security” on the center of its diplomacy. Considering the tradition of Japan’s UN diplomacy, Kishida requested further efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, which is highly popular in the business sector in Japan. “The key is to ‘invest in people,’ which is my pollical credo,” said Kishida.

However, does Kishida administration invest in its own people enough? Although he told that “Japan aims to reduce inequalities and overcome social divisions by promoting women’s participation,” his choice of no female State Minister or Parliamentary Vice-Minister earlier this month was criticized as the consequence of woman lawmakers’ shortage in Liberal Democratic Party. He is responsible for achieving more accesses of women to politics by increasing female lawmakers in LDP.

What Kishida emphasized the most in his speech was the nuclear issue. Calling nuclear disarmament his lifelong mission, Kishida touched on the significance of promoting Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and pledged ¥3 billion of contribution to newly establishment of “Japan Chair” at overseas research institutes and think tanks. In the backdrop of General Assembly, Kishida co-sponsored with the leaders of Australia and Philippines a commemorative high-level event on FMCT. “The concept of an FMCT was proposed 30 years ago. Hence, experts have engaged in numerous dialogues over its technical elements. Unfortunately, negotiations on an FMCT have still not begun, but we are in need of an FMCT than ever before,” told Kishida in his opening statement.

In spite of his eagerness to nuclear disarmament, Japan is well known as turning its back to Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which has already been signed by over 90 UN member countries. Considering his diligent effort for promoting FMCT this time, it is obvious that Kishida focuses more on FMCT than TPNW. What we need to see is the number of member countries. If Japan wants to outreach the countries called Global South, the easier way should be joining the treaty at least as an observer at first.

Denouncing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Kishida required reinforced UN. “Initiatives to limit the use of the veto, which exacerbates division and confrontation in the UN, will strengthen and restore confidence in the Security Council,” he said. While the appeal can be paralleled with what Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded to the member countries in General Debate, the intention of Japan is always regarded as connected to its ambition to join the permanent members, whenever it refers to Security Council reform. It would be notable that Russia also hopes to expand the member counties to erode the Western power in the council.

“Facing severe situation of the world today, we need a common language for human beings to achieve an international community for cooperation,” Kishida said, gingerly reading a prepared statement at his press conference after his UN speech. Being the top leader of a nation with over twenty thousand of yearly suicides or pervasive discrimination against ethnical or sexual minorities, was he successful in resonating his words to the people in the world?

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