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On North Korea, UNSC Condemns, ICP Asks Japan of a Ban Trip to DPRK

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 6 --  After North Korea announced it had tested a hydrogen bomb, at the UN a Security Council meeting was called for 11 am. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon read a statement at the UNSC stakeout at 10:30 am, taking no question as usual.

 After 1 pm, Security Council President for January Elbio Rosselli of Uruguay emerged and read out a Press Statement below. Japan's Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa spoke, and Inner City Press asked him of Ban's moves to visit DPRK. He replied that if such a trip emphasized UN resolutions including on human rights, it could be useful. Video here. But what WAS Ban's trip going to be about?

Here is the UNSC Press Statement:

"The members of the Security Council held urgent consultations to address the serious situation arising from the nuclear test conducted by the DPRK on January 6, 2016.

The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this test, which is a clear violation of Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), and 2094 (2013) and of the non-proliferation regime, and therefore a clear threat to international peace and security continues to exist.

The members of the Security Council also recalled that they have previously expressed their determination to take "further significant measures" in the event of another DPRK nuclear test, and in line with this commitment and the gravity of this violation, the members of the Security Council will begin to work immediately on such measures in a new Security Council resolution."

   Earlier, UNTV fed out B-roll of Ban meeting with his advisers -- Kim Won-soo and Jeff Feltman formerly of the US State Department, Vine here -- and Ban canceled a previously scheduled (also “no questions”) appearance that Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access critiqued here.

  Russia's Ambassador Churkin on his way into the Security Council at 11 am said, “Cool heads, cool heads.” The UK's Deputy Permanent Representative Peter Wilson spoke (Periscope video here), as did Japan's Permanent Representative.

Back on December 10, 2015, for Human Rights Day there was a UN Security Council meeting about human rights in North Korea. This comes as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon canceled a November 25 visit to Western Sahara because he thought he could go to North Korea, which still hasn't happened.

 After the meeting on December 10, Inner City Press asked UK Deputy Permanent Representative Peter Wilson, and then High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid al Hussein, about a Ban Ki-moon trip.

The UK's Wilson said his country would like to see dialogue. When Inner City Press asked Zeid if he'd discussed Ban's trip with him, Zeid said no.

 So on December 11, Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, transcript here:

Inner City Press: At the stakeout after yesterday's meeting on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the question arose to Prince Zeid whether he had discussed with the Secretary-General, the Secretary-General's possible trip to DPRK in terms of a human rights component to it.  And he seemed to indicate that the two had not discussed it.

What I wanted to ask you is, one, is that the case?  And two, what is the place, what would be the place of human rights in not… obviously the trip hasn't taken place yet, but in terms of clearly he has said that negotiations are under way and I saw Mr. Kim quoted to that effect, what is the place of human rights in such a trip?

Deputy Spokesman:  Human rights has a place in all of the Secretary-General's travels and it would do so in this case as well.  Regarding specifics, that will have to wait until when a trip is arranged, and there's nothing further to say about that.  We've been trying to make preparations when it's feasible, but there's nothing further to announce at this point. Have a good weekend, everyone.

   One is left wondering what would be the agenda of a Ban trip to North Korea - and what the US, which sponsored the December 10 meeting, thinks of such a trip. While it is difficult to get a USUN answer to the question, other ambassadors have told Inner City Press that Japan is against such a Ban trip. We'll have more on this.

 On December 10, there was a vote on whether to hold the meeting at all.

 On the way in, Venezuela's Ambassador said he was against the meeting; China's Deputy merely smiled.

 Inside, after a speech by China demanding a vote, and a Samanatha Power speech, the vote was held: the nine requesters in favor, four against (including Russia), and two abstentions (including Nigeria).

 Soon it was said Japan and South Korea - but not North Korea - would participate in the meeting, and OHCHR Zeid and USg Feltman would brief. Feltman's briefing is online here.

 Zeid, as fast transcribed by InnerCityPro (OHCHR will have full text) said:

"The abduction of foreign nationals, forced disappearences, and a litany of other violations have not been halted or reversed by the government of the DPRK. There is no accountability and no independent judiciary. Millions of peole in the DPRK are denied basic rights. They are not allowed to move freely or speak about injustices, they are not allowed to follow their faith, they are denied access to information. The commission of inquiry describes the appalling nature of the political prison camps where people, including children, have been starved, tortured, raped. Hundreds of thousands have died in these camps…they are believed to contain 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners.
The report said that “the gravity, scale and nature of the human rights violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” The new office in Seoul has begun collecting testimony from people who have left the DPRK and deepening evidence. During my visit I met defectors, men and women, and their personal experiences were harrowing. My concern over the threats issued by DPRK and media against the office in Seoul—it is wholly unacceptable to issue threats against a UN office.
3 types of allegations : victims and witnesses spoke to severe treatment of detainees – no access to lawyers, inhuman conditions, torture during interrogation. Food insecurity is an ongoing concern. The systemic failure of the distribution system hasn’t been addressed. Women in the DPRK are subject to violence and discrimination, and there’s a lack of awareness that such violence is unacceptable. Restrictions on movements across the border with china had a negative impact on women, and augmented risk of detention for those who try to cross border.
The family reunions were a welcome development and should be regularized. We’re organizing a workshop on the human rights implications of separation of families. Most have reached an advanced age. Those selected for previous reunions have no possibility of maintaining contacts.
The matter of international abductions is a cause of very grave concern. The establishment of a special investigation committee in the DPRK was positive but no info has been provided since then on results. The fate of abductees must be established. OHCHR organized consultations on human rights and abductions, followed by a visit to Japan.
This year the GA may call on the SC to take action by referring the matter to the ICC which I believe to be essential. Any call must go hand in hand with dialogue with government of DPRK. My office has continued to engage with authorities. There are signs that the governemnt is making tentative efforts to engage, and I welcome the invitation to visit the country. My office is engaged with the office to explore modalities. The systemic failings heighten international anxieties. More must be done to ensure respect. I thank you."

 It is a serious issue, but there are questions about the staging. The UN called it an "urgent" meeting, below, when it was well known for five days. Two defectors were bought to speak - but in the private clubhouse of a Correspondents Association.

Surreally, this UN Corruption Association was the venue on December 10 for two North Korea witnesses, Grace Jo and Jung Gwang II, whose handlers instead of booking the UN press briefing room which any member state can do, put them behind the closed doors of UNCA. Since UNCA under Pioli engages in censorship, here, perhaps it was not only ironic but appropriate.

 The new Free UN Coalition for Access, founded by two defectors from the increasingly corrupt UNCA, pursued the question of why information about the North Korea UNSC meeting was withheld from the press and public. UNCA said nothing, took defectors behind closed doors.

  As of 8 am, the day's UN Journal does not list it; nor does the UN Media Alert nor the Security Council's online Program of Work. The last of these may explain it: after the Council's closed door meetings on Western Sahara (listed) and Turkey on December 8, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the press that the US should have disclosed the intended North Korea meeting when formulating its Program of Work for December, when the US is President.

  Inner City Press has checked with another Security Council delegation, which said it is a good argument, but not enough to "stop" the meeting. But enough to have the meeting UNlisted, even six and a half hours before?

  The UN has an archaic, anti-public game under which "Arria formula" meetings of the Security Council are not listed in the UN Journal, sometimes not even on the blue signs outside the meeting. The Free UN Coalition for Access thinks that sending diplomatic signals by withholding information from the public is not what the UN, ostensibly about "We the Peoples," should be about. We'll hare more on this.

Update: at 10:30 am, the UN sent out this: "URGENT Message from the President of the Security Council  The President of the Security Council wishes to inform the members of the Council that a public meeting in connection with the agenda item “The situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” will be convened today at 2.30 p.m. "

  But it was no surprise - it was known since December 5, and December 8.

Then this was (mis) added:  “02:15pm   LIVE   Stakeout 2nd floor outside the Security Council Chamber:
 10:00am   LIVE   Security Council 7575 meeting:  Briefing: the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”

 10 am? This is what happens when the ball is hidden...

 It is (well) explained online, without excusing the UN Media Alert misleading (and UNTV mis-timing) --

" The UN Journal for the day the Council convened to take up the situation in the DPRK contained no notice of a Council meeting on that topic (Journal No. 2014/244).  This also had been the case when the Council held the formal meeting on 15 September 2006 at which the procedural vote on the agenda item relating to Myanmar was put to a vote (Journal No. 2006/178).  In contrast, Journal No. 2005/142 did contain a notice of the meeting at which the procedural vote on the agenda item relating to human settlements issues in Zimbabwe was put to a vote.  This is explained by the fact that between the 2005 notice in the Journal and the lack of notice in 2006 and 2014, the Council had adopted its Note by the President, S/2006/507.  Paragraph 1 of that Note (and of the subsequent Note S/2010/507) states:  “The provisional agenda for formal meetings of the Council should be included in the Journal of the United Nations provided that it has been approved in informal consultations”.  Notice for the 2006 and 2014 meetings therefore could not be included in the Journal because the Council members had been unable to reach consensus beforehand." [Link]

 But why did the UN Media Alert not list this known meeting? FUNCA will pursue.

For more than a month there have been rumors, stoked in some cases by the UN, that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon may visit North Korea.

 To some it seemed strange, right after the UN's Third Committee enacted a resolution about human rights in North Korea. What that country might gain from a high level UN visit might be clear -- showing that the resolution didn't mean much -- and some surmise that the Korean Peninsula is increasingly Ban's focus. But what would be in it, from a Ban-to-DPRK visit, for the resolution's proponents?

  On December 3 the Spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the UN Hagar Chemali issued a statement that “last year in December the UN Security Council convened for the first time in history to discuss the human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Today, Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States have requested another meeting of the Security Council to examine conditions in DPRK and their effects on international peace and security. As President of the Security Council for the month of December, the United States will now work quickly to schedule this meeting. We will provide additional details as soon as we have them.”

  Now, again from Ms. Chemali, this: "We intend to convene the Security Council meeting on the situation in the DPRK on Thursday, December 10 at 2:30 PM. We are currently working with the Secretariat to explore the availability of senior briefers from DPA and OHCHR. We will update on briefers as soon as we have more details."

  In the US Mission's December 3 statement, Ambassador Samantha Power said: “A year ago, the Security Council met for the first time on the widespread and systematic human rights violations being committed by the North Korean government. Having placed the issue on the Security Council’s agenda last year, we believe it is critical for the Council to continue to shine a light on the abuses in North Korea and speak regularly about the DPRK’s human rights situation – and what we can do to change it – for as long as the crimes committed there persist.”

   For now we can say, this would seem to make a Ban Ki-moon visit to DPRK (even) less likely, at last in December. And in January, when Uruguay is set to be UN Security Council president? Watch this site.

Back on November 17 when Ri Hung Sik, Ambassador at-large of the Democratic People's Republic of Korean, held a press conference at the North Korean mission, he said that he had heard nothing, nothing at all, about UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visiting North Korea, which Yonhap ascribed to a senior UN source.

Even when asked a leading question about a hypothetical Ban trip, Ri Hung Sik said Ban's UN would have to improve its relations with DPRK. Inner City Press is putting the audio online here, and embedded below.

 Inner City Press ran back to the UN and asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, transcript here:

Inner City Press: here was just a press conference at the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) mission, and there their minister, Ri Hung Sik, asked about the Secretary-General's possible reported trip, said he's heard nothing about it at all and that there are many rumours on the internet.  He also said that this South Korean national security law that makes it illegal for South Korean citizens to speak positively of the DPRK… that's how he described it… should be looked at by the UN.  So I wanted to know, what is the Secretary-General's view of that law?  And if that's an accurate description, is he bound by it?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of the law.  As far as Ban Ki-moon, he is the Secretary-General of the United Nations and is doing his duty as such.

   But why did Team Ban play it so coy on Yonhap's report? Now late on November 17, the UN has issued this more specific denial:

"In response to questions asked about a report from Xinhua and the Korean Central News Agency stating that the Secretary-General would be travelling to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea next week, the Spokesman had the following to say: The Secretary-General will not be travelling to the DPRK next week. He will be in New York most of the week and then travel to Malta for the Commonwealth Summit. From there, he will go to directly to Paris to attend CoP21. The Secretary-General has repeatedly said that he is willing to play any constructive role, including traveling to the DPRK, in an effort to work for peace, stability and dialogue on the Korean Peninsula."

  Before Inner City Press left the DPRK mission on November 17, it asked Ri Hung Sik for his view of UN Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman and when or if UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid will visit North Korea.

  Of Darusman, Ri Hung Sik said he met him only once, and that it seems Darusman does not speak his own words, or think his own thoughts. Of Zeid, he said the discussion is of technical cooperation, but no date was given. Video here.

   During the press conference, there was no question, as at a prior DPRK press conference, about Donald Trump...


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