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On N. Korea, UN's Ban Has No Comment, No Control Over "UN Command," Planes Threatened

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, March 7 -- The UN's interactions with the Koreas, always opaque, have become even more so under Ban Ki-moon, the first South Korean UN Secretary-General. His tenure began with questions about the UN Development Program's payments to the Kim Jong-il government in North Korea. Two years on, with North Korea threatening to shoot down South Korean airliners and to test another long range missile, Mr. Ban has no comment.

  At the UN noon briefing on March 2, Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe, as a follow-up to media reports of talks between North Korea and the "United Nations Command," about Ban's political engagement with the Korean peninsula --

Question: Marie, would you have anything more on those talks between the [US-led UN Command] and North Korean officials?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:  No, I do not.  We obviously are monitoring closely what goes on on the Korean peninsula, and as I mentioned, the Korean peninsula did come up today between the Secretary-General and the Secretary of State of the United States.  I could ask for a further readout if you like.

Inner City Press: Just a follow-up to that.  There was a story last week saying that there had been a plan to send Lynn Pascoe and a team of others from the UN in early March to North Korea, but then North Korea cancelled that.  Is that true or not true?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:  I had some guidance on that for you.  The United Nations has been working with the Permanent Mission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to revive the dialogue channel between the DPRK, which was suspended four years ago following Mr. Maurice Strong’s resignation.

The dialogue is proceeding smoothly through the Department of Political Affairs.  No particular program for a visit to the DPRK has been set at this point and the consultation is ongoing.  That’s what I have for you.

   But on March 6, when Inner City Press asked follow-up questions to Ms. Okabe's colleague Michele Montas, there was more, including a late-offered statement that Ban and the UN have no control over the "United Nations Command," but a continued no-comment on North Korea's actions.

UN's Ban speak to media in S. Korea, comment N. Korean threat to planes not shown

 From the March 6 noon briefing transcript --

Inner City Press: Michele, North Korea has said that it can’t guarantee the safety of South Korean airliners that fly over it.  This thing that keeps being called the UN Command, the United States-led UN Command has had some comment on it.  First, I want to know if the Secretariat has any comment on what is viewed as a breach of international law; one country threatening another country’s airliners.  And two, could you describe what is the relationship between the United Nations Secretariat and this UN Command that’s between South Korea and North Korea?  Does Ban Ki-moon--

Spokesperson Montas:  Well, it’s a body that’s been there for quite a few years right now, and we would have to bring your question to DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].

[The Spokesperson later clarified that the United Nations Command is not a United Nations operation.  Its name comes from the fact that it was formed after the Korean War in 1953 under Security Council resolution 82, which authorized United Nations Member States to provide military forces for the border.]

Inner City Press: Does he have any response?

Spokesperson Montas:  The Secretary-General, at this point, no.

 But when will he? Ban is slated to be in Washington March 10 and 11. Watch this site.

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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