Member States Should Unite around Principle of Rule of Law

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken the international order based on the rule of law, and the raison d’etre of the United Nations has been called into question. Japan must play a role in overcoming this historic crisis.

Japan, which holds the presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month, organized a ministerial-level open debate on the theme of the rule of law.

In a speech, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi called for countries to unite, saying, “All member states, large or small, can be free from the fear of brute force under the rule of law.”

The U.N. Charter prohibits the use of force and threats to expand territories. If the charter becomes null, the world will be a jungle where the strong prey on the weak. The importance of respecting international law and international court orders and maintaining the rule of law is being called into question like never before.

In addition to Russia’s invasion, China is continuing its military intimidation of Taiwan. China has dismissed a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that completely rejected Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea and called the ruling a “piece of waste paper.” Such an act goes against the rule of law.

In the open debate at the U.N. Security Council, most of the 77 participating countries expressed their support for Japan’s stance. This indicates a sense of crisis among these countries that their security will be threatened if they tolerate outrageous actions by Russia and China.

On the other hand, the Chinese and Russian representatives reiterated their confrontational stance against the West and Japan, saying Western countries have imposed their own concept of rule-based order.

The suggestion that the U.N. Charter and other international laws are Western rules is purely self-righteous. Such thinking ignores the history of China and Russia that have also achieved their own development under the U.N. and international rules.

Beijing and Moscow may want to attract support from small and midsize countries by emphasizing a cause of resistance against the rule of the democratic camp, but their actions only serve to highlight their selfishness.

The rule of law has nothing to do with forms of governance or ideology. It is a universal value that has been cultivated by member states since the United Nations was established. It is hoped that Japan’s stance that the rule of law is a fortress to protect small and midsize countries will prevail among many more nations.

Although the U.N. Security Council undertakes a role in maintaining international peace and security, it has failed to implement effective measures to deal with the Ukraine crisis and North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches due to the abuse of veto power by China and Russia, permanent members of the council.

The U.N. General Assembly has drawn up a resolution condemning Russia in an apparent attempt to make up for the security council’s dysfunction. Calls for the council’s reform have also been growing. Japan, which aspires to become a permanent member of the security council, should seize this opportunity and take the lead in the reform.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 14, 2023)