Such things are not of any real significance, but Eisaku Sato (1901-1975) was the first Japanese prime minister born in the 20th century, while Shinzo Abe was the first prime minister born after World War II. Our new leader, Yoshihiko Noda, is the first prime minister born after Japan became a member of the United Nations in 1956.
Joining the United Nations was a cherished dream for postwar Japan, because it signaled the country's return to the international community. The dream took a while to be realized, because the Soviet Union used its veto power repeatedly to prevent Japan from becoming a U.N. member.
After Japan finally became a member, then-Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu (1887-1957) addressed the General Assembly. The thunderous applause with which he was welcomed is still talked about to this day.
I was reminded of this history by Palestine's bid for full U.N. membership. In his address before the General Assembly, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said it was time for a "Palestinian spring." The rapturous applause this drew was enough to eclipse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rebuttal speech.
The United States is in a bind. Every U.N. membership application is sent to the Security Council, and the pro-Israel United States has vowed to use its veto power to block the Palestinian bid. French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned that a U.S. veto would "spark a new wave of violence in the Middle East." I should imagine that many world leaders agree with Sarkozy.
The United States has a track record of repeatedly vetoing resolutions unfavorable to Israel. The power of veto is a prerogative of the five permanent members of the Security Council, of which the United States is one. But using it this time will cause all sorts of repercussions. Tense negotiations will continue in the Security Council.
Prime Minister Noda has returned from his U.N. visit. Was he able to assert himself on the international stage? The only impression I got was that he was pressured by an increasingly testy United States to produce results on the Futenma relocation issue.
Predictably, Japan seems to be paying dearly for its annual comings and goings of prime ministers.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 25
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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