UNITED NATIONS — When Yoshio Hatano, Japan's ambassador to the United Nations, talks to groups of Americans, he likes to echo a slogan from the Revolutionary War.
"I always tell them," the ambassador recalled recently, "that there's an old American saying on democracy: No taxation without representation."
Hatano applies the slogan deftly to his country. Japan pays more dues to the United Nations than any other member except the United States. But, unlike the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Britain and France, Japan does not have a permanent seat on the Security Council with its power of veto.
"We don't want people to make policy on these (international) matters and send us the bill," he said in an interview in his offices near U.N. headquarters. "Forty-six years after the end of the Second World War, the Security Council should reflect the present reality."
Yet, though Japan may have justice on its side, there is little chance that the U.N. will change its Charter any time soon.
The old reality denies Japan--and Germany, another economic giant--any special place at the United Nations. That's not surprising. The United Nations was forged by the victorious Allied powers at the end of World War II. They were in no mood to afford special status to defeated, devastated enemies.
The U.N. Charter, in fact, still bristles with an embarrassing legal term to describe Japan, Germany and their Axis partners. All are officially known as "enemy states."
The clauses with this term have no practical use in the day-to-day operations of the United Nations., but they still seem humiliating to Japan. "Tokyo wants to have it changed very much," said the ambassador. "This is more or less a psychological problem."
The logic of the Japanese argument draws some support. Prime Minister Bob Hawke of Australia recently called for a redrafting of the U.N. Charter to eliminate the "enemy states" clauses and to grant permanent Security Council seats to both Japan and Germany. Several private foundations have issued papers agreeing with him.
But the reaction of most governments has been tepid. Not even Germany is very enthusiastic. Many governments fear that any attempt to redraft the U.N. Charter would open a Pandora's box of confused and harmful changes on other matters. Also, any reshaping of the Security Council raises a host of knotty questions:
Would a Big Seven weight the Security Council even more in favor of the industrialized world? Would it really be fair for three Western European countries--France, Britain and Germany--to hold permanent seats? Should a new Charter expand the number of permanent members even more to include Brazil? India? Nigeria? What about Egypt? Would the addition of so many permanent members bloat the Security Council into a state of torpor?
Nevertheless, the changes may be inevitable some distant day. "The present configuration is an accident of history," said Ronald Spiers, a former American diplomat who is now deputy secretary general of the world body. "Things have changed since World War II. Maybe it used to not make any difference. But the U.N. is at least potentially on the edge of a lot more relevance than it has been in the past. So now it does make a difference."
Spiers predicted that U.N. members would feel forced to take up these needed changes in the Charter within five to 10 years.
The complexity of the problem is reflected by the German position on these issues.
U.N. Ambassador Detlev Graf Zu Rantzau explained in a recent interview that Germany believes that the combination of its economic strength and the end of the Cold War "would ask of us to play a prominent, that is, a constructive role at the U.N., but this does not mean that we are actively looking for a seat on the Security Council.
"We would like to make our influence felt in the U.N. through the European Community," the ambassador went on. But he said Germany has no "concrete policy" about whether this should be done through European Community members Britain and France or whether it required the creation of a new seat for the European Community.
As for the "enemy states" clauses, the Germans maintain that it is not worth fiddling with the Charter just to delete them. Once West Germany was admitted to the United Nations in 1973, Graf Zu Rantzau went on, "we felt that by virtue of our being accepted, the enemy state clauses in regard to us were null and void. They had no practical political significance."
The German view appears to prevail among the eight other "enemy states" whose governments--in some cases, puppet governments--declared war on the United States or its Allies during World War II: Austria, Bulgaria, Burma, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Siam (now Thailand).