- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2004

NEW YORK — Japan, the second-biggest financier of the United Nations, wants to cut its contributions to the world body, a Japanese U.N. official said yesterday.

Tokyo is expected to spend about $1.24 billion on the United Nations during its next fiscal year, which begins in April. The sum accounts for nearly one-fifth of the U.N. budget.

The United States is the only country that contributes more to the United Nations. Jun Yamazaki, the Japanese U.N. mission’s minister for budgets, said he didn’t know numbers but confirmed a Japanese media report that Tokyo wants to pay less.

“I think there is an overall sense in Japan that Japan would like to see its rate of assessments going lower,” Mr. Yamazaki said.

A senior Finance Ministry official told the Kyodo news agency Wednesday that the reduction, which could amount to millions of dollars, reflects Tokyo’s fiscal austerity as the economic slowdown shrinks revenues. The report said Japan plans to cut its contributions to the global organization beginning in 2006, when the United Nations is set to reassess country contributions.

The world body has not received official word that Japan wants to lower its dues, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Contributions to the United Nations are based loosely on each country’s economic power. Reassessing Japan’s dues would be a complex task, requiring approval from other U.N. General Assembly nations because they would have to pick up the difference.

Japan’s gross domestic product — a broad measure of economic output — accounts for more than 14 percent of the world economy, but its payments amount to 19 percent of the U.N. budget. The United States has been paying about 22 percent, just short of a U.N. cap stipulating that no country pay more than 25 percent after the United States negotiated decreased dues in 2000; its GDP is 30 percent of the global economy.

In November, a government panel led by a senior aide to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recommended that Japan ask the United Nations to lower its share to 15 percent, or roughly $770 million.

Analysts say Japan also may be trying to put pressure on the United Nations to accept its request for a permanent seat on the 15-member Security Council. Five countries — the United States, Russia, China, France and Great Britain — have permanent seats that give them veto power over substantive resolution that goes before the council.

One option for Japan is that it simply could decide not to pay its dues, as many countries, including the United States, have done sometimes. Nonpayment is a huge problem for the United Nations, but Japan in the past has been prompt, and U.N. officials consider that possibility unlikely.

Tokyo’s reduced outlays are expected to extend to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and the so-called Paris Club, a consortium of rich nations that lends to poor nations, Kyodo said. Tokyo shoulders about one-fourth of the OECD’s annual budget.

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