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On North Korea Sanctions, US Hit Latvia's ABLV Bank, Now Says Confident in Sector

By Matthew Russell Lee, Full letter to UN here

UNITED NATIONS, February 20 – While the UN's North Korea sanctions committee holds closed-door member state meetings followed by upbeat read-outs, the US on February 14 moved to sanction the largest private bank in Latvia, ABLV Bank, for business with North Korean firms ranging from Ocean Maritime Management Co to North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank. The latter was cited by Pyongyang in a recent letter to the UN asking for an accommodation to pay its 2018 dues directly, and not by a "swap" (see below). Now six days later the US has seen fit to issue a statement of confidence in Latvia's banking sector: "The United States has full confidence that the Government of Latvia will take the necessary steps to uphold the integrity of its banking and financial sector.  For many years, we have been working together with Latvia to combat corruption, money laundering, and other threats to international security.  Moving forward, the United States supports and will continue to help the Government of Latvia, the Latvian Financial Capital and Markets Commission, and Latvian law enforcement to realize our shared vision of a strong and well-regulated Latvian financial sector." Who lobbied whom? Media paid to cover the UN too often let it off the hook, on issues from North Korea to UN corruption to most recently automatic weapons. The UN has been the venue for bribes paid from Macau based operative Ng Lap Seng and now Patrick Ho of the China Energy Fund Committee - but on February 13 the UN allowed an Indonesia based weapons company to advertise not only machine guns and drones but even tanks inside the UN. Periscope video here. But when the Japanese media paid to cover the UN belatedly chime in on gun control, like Sankei Shimbun's Mayu Uetsuka here, they ignored the UN's total failure in even advertising guns after the Florida shooting. They could have covered it, and still could; their Mr Tatsuya Kato in South Korea, whom Inner City Press supported here and here, and also in Sankei, proves there is something to support on a free Press basis. But. Likewise, Japan and some of its media express concern that China is eclipsing them, even as they eschew investigation for  fluff like Hideki Matsui eating steak standing up. Now they bemoan that China's foreign minister has visited more countries - 262 they say, which don't exist - than Toro Kono, now promoting himself as a possible prime minister. But they didn't follow up on Taro Kono's evasive answer to Inner City Press about returning to UN peacekeeping after failure in South Sudan, for example. As the North Korea UN sanctions "experts" report continues to be cherry picked further and further down the food chain, now that North Korea paid its 2017 UN dues by means of a swap is also ignored, in favor of fluff pieces about former Yankee Hideki Matsui eating small steaks on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. Meanwhile in the wake of admitted misreporting on Okinawa, accountability means cutting of one month's salary from the Naha bureau chief. But are such cuts overseas, amid "coverage" of cuts of beef, not likely to cause more errors? Like the recent report focused on coal, pointing the finger at Vietnam, Russia, China, Vietnam and South Korea. Omitted, apparently intentionally, are violations by Japanese companies, like Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, as Inner City Press has reported. On UN dues,when Inner City Press asked, the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said North Korea will be doing its business through the UN Federal Credit Union, of which UN staff in Sudan have complained to Inner City Press. We'll have more on this. While the formally named Democratic Republic of Korea last year paid its UN dues as a "swap," for this year's $180,000 it has told the UN that sanctions are prohibiting the transfer and asks that the UN take action. Vice Minister Pak Myong Guk wrote to UN Department of Management chief Jan Beagle, in a letter obtained by Inner City Press and available in full here on Patreon, that "Last year we paid our contribution to the UN in the form of swap with the operation expenses of the UN agencies in the DPRK, purely out of its position to honor its obligation as a UN member state, but it is an abnormal method which cannot be applied continuously in view of our state law and regulations. I would like to kindly request the UN Secretariat to take measures, in
conformity with its mission with impartiality and independence as lifeline, to secure promptly the bank transaction channel through which the regular payment of the DPRK’s contribution is made possible." We'll have more on this. Back on January 17 when the UN's Committee on Relations with the Host Country met, the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea read a three-page statement condemning the US for issuing his Mission to the UN's tax-exempt card in the name "North Korea" and not Democratic People's Republic of Korea. He said, "We presumed it would be only a kind of technical mistake by the U.S. side, and returned the card back to the U.S. mission, while requesting them to correct that serious mistake." The statement, which Inner City Press has exclusively obtained immediately after the meeting (photos here, full PDF of letter via Patreon, here) continued that the U.S. mission replied, "It seems to be a glitch in our database, we'll reach out to our office in DC." That was on December 13, the statement said, continuing: "on 14th December there was an explanation from the U.S. mission informing that, quoted as 'Our DC office has indicated that all country / mission names on OFM credentials for Democratic People's Republic of Korea indicate North Korea which is the conventional short abbreviation. The short name for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is North Korea, so the tax card will remain the same." The statement concluded by condemning "such reckless political hostile policy" and demanded an apology. Watch this site. Throughout 2016 New Zealand documentary maker Gaylene Preston and her crew staked out the UN Security Council along with Inner City Press, awaiting the results of the straw polls to elected Ban Ki-moon's sucessor as UN Secretary General. Preston's focus was Helen Clark, the former New Zealand prime minister then in her second term as Administrator of the UN Development Program. Preston would ask Inner City Press after each poll, What about Helen Clark's chances? Suffice it to say Clark never caught fire as a candidate. Inner City Press told Preston, as did many other interviewees in her documentary “My Year with Helen,” that it might be sexism. But it might be power too - including Samantha Power, the US Ambassador who spoke publicly about gender equality and then in secret cast a ballot Discouraging Helen Clark, and praised Antonio Guterres for his energy (yet to be seen). Samantha Power's hypocrisy is called out in Preston's film, in which New Zealand's Ambassador complains that fully four members of the Council claimed to be the single “No Opinion” vote that Clark received. There was a private screening of My Year With Helen on December 4 at NYU's King Juan Carlos Center, attended by a range of UN staff, a New Zealand designer of a website for the country's proposal new flag, and Ban Ki-moon's archivist, among others. After the screening there was a short Q&A session. Inner City Press used that to point out that Guterres has yet to criticize any of the Permanent Five members of the Council who did not block him as the US, France and China blocked Clark, with Russia casting a “No Opinion.” And that Guterres picked a male from among France's three candidates to head UN Peacekeeping which they own, and accepted males from the UK and Russia for “their” top positions. Then over New Zealand wine the talk turned to the new corruption at the UN, which is extensive, and the upcoming dubious Wall Street fundraiser of the UN Correspondents Association, for which some in attendance had been shaken down, as one put it, for $1200.  The UN needed and needs to be shaken up, and hasn't been. But the film is good, and should be screened not in the UN Censorship Alliance but directly in the UN Security Council, on the roll-down movie screen on which failed envoys like Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed are projected. “My Year With Helen” is well worth seeing.


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