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North Korean Conference Shrouded in Mystery, UN's Non-Role, Ban Visit

By Matthew Russell

UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- For three days since a North Korean delegation including nuclear envoy Ri Yong-ho arrived in New York, media have thronged outside the Millennium Hotel on 44th Street across from the UN, filming anyone who went in or out.

  On March 7 there was Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; on March 8, Henry Kissinger, this time without attendant protesters chanting "war criminal."

  Finally on March 9 the Press was invited in, to a 3:30 pm briefing on the hotel's second floor.

  The problem, however, is that at the very beginning of the press conference moderator Christoph Pohlmann of the Friedrich Ebert Stifgung Foundation announced "we are not giving you any specific details of either the contents or the participants of the conference, in order not to endanger the process of trust-building." One wag muttered, why are we here then?

Of the four other panelists one, Haeng Woo Lee of the National Association of Korean Americans, never spoke.

Inner City Press asked the panelists about a statement in the press release by Syracuse University's Maxwell School, that "the United Nations participated," and specifically asked if having former South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-moon as Secretary General helped or didn't help the process, or had no impact at all, as on so many other issues.

Moderator Christoph Pohlmann handled the question himself:

"That's an easy question, because we can't answer it. I can;t comment on who represented the UN at the meeting, but I think everyone is aware of the role or the non-role the UN has in the Korea issue, and I think we don’t need to elaborate on that. But just to make it clear, a few days ago there was some speculation that Ban Ki moon had attended our meeting because he entered the hotel. It’s not true. Just to make that clear. He had another meeting in that hotel. He enters the building probably on a daily basis because it's part of the UN compound."

While DC-1 and DC-2 are part of the UN, the Millenniun Hotel is different. What WAS Ban Ki-moon doing there? Pohlmann wouldn't even confirm the participation of Ri Yong-ho. So who were those masked men?

 With all the journalistic firepower directed at this non-event, there are sure to be some detailed analyses forthcoming, particularly after a March 10 press conference that couldn't help but be more informative. Watch this site.

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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