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North Korea Does Not Need UN Mediation or Money, Auditors Kept Out, Minister Choe Says

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- North Korea does not need the UN's mediation help, and does not need the UN Development Program's money, nor its auditors, the country's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Choe Su Hon told reporters on Tuesday. "We do not need any mediation from the UN," Minister Choe said, adding that "there is no need for the UN to send new auditors" to Pyongyang.

            A day earlier, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had "telephone talks with the President of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Roh Moo-hyun and I conveyed the same message to him [that] as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I'll spare no efforts to facilitate such a peace negotiation between South and North Korea." (This offer was presaged in an internal UN memo which Inner City Press first reported on, here.) Earlier still, Mr. Ban ordered a full scope audit of UNDP's spending in North Korea, and urged the Kim Jong-il government to grant visa to the UN's auditors. Minister Choe brought into the open North Korea's direct denial of Mr. Ban's plea, saying that auditors are unnecessary and won't be allowed to enter. "We don't care about such a small amount of money," Minister Choe said. One of the reporters waiting on Second Avenue outside the North Korean mission mused, Sure they don't care anymore about UNDP's money, now that South Korea is offering in the billions.

            Minister Choe spoke to only three media outlets: the state wire services of China and Russia, and the president of the UN Correspondents Association. This last collegially transmitted quotes and his tape to other reporters, including Inner City Press. The majority of those interested work for Japanese media, which North Korean representatives have referred to as "reptile media." This gave rise to several jokes while waiting for the pooled report, in which Minister Choe said that Japan must apologize "like Germany" for what it did in World War Two, and must provide full compensation. In his speech to the General Assembly, Minister Choe said that peace "depends particularly on how practical measures the US and Japan will take to remove their hostile policies on the DPRK."

            In his subsequently by-invitation-only press conference, Minister Choe said that Ban Ki-moon had offended North Koreans' "dignity and integrity" by ordering the audit. He claimed that the first round of work of the UN Board of Auditors vindicated North Korea, while in fact the report made clear that the money spent could not be traced, and that on-site auditing would be needed. Now that will apparently not happen.

North Korea's Choe Su Hon, previously at the UN

            At Tuesday's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's spokesperson if the issues of the auditors and granting them visas had come up in Ban's meeting Monday with North Korean Ambassador Pak Gil Yon. No, she said, promising to provide an update on the issue. Given North Korean Minister Choe's statements four hours later, it appears that the update is that Ban has been disobeyed, that the visas won't be granted and the ordered audit will not be carried out. Can such issues simply disappear like political opponents? We'll see.

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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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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540