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In UNSC, South Korea Denies Right of Reply to North Korea "and Others"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 7 -- A month after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's deputy ambassador to the UN Ri Tong Il held a press conference slamming the trilateral meetings of the US, South Korea and Japan, when he asked for the usual "right of reply" at the end of the May 7 Security Council debate, South Korea as Council president said no, there would be no more talking.

   Ri Tong Il on his way out of the Council complained to Inner City Press that no explanation had been given.

  Inner City Press stayed in front of the Security Council to ask. The first response was that North Korea should read the rules. But many other diplomats said they had never seen the right to reply -- given a more generic name in the Security Council -- denied like that.

 Finally a less flippant answer arrived: the position is that rights of reply, at least in the Security Council, are entirely at the discretion of the President. Many diplomats were not aware of that position.

  But should a President take this position against their main adversary? (The argument is that South Korea denied requests by an unspecified number of other countries. How many? Which ones?) By the same logic of those saying a permanent member should not be able to veto an issue involving itself?

   In any event, shouldn't the denial of the usually assumed right to reply have been explained? Shouldn't the logic be further and publicly explained now? It's May 7 and South Korea has yet to hold a Q&A stakeout. Last month, as requested and noted by the Free UN Coalition for Access, Nigeria held ten.

  South Korea is the President of the Council for May and organized the day's debate, on UNSC Resolution 1540. As Ri Tong Il's initial speech proceeded, the South Korean chair told him the time limit for non-members of the Council is four minutes. He said he would wind up, and continued. She banged the gavel and gave the floor to Ukraine's Permanent Representative Yuriy Sergeyev.

  Earlier, Syria's Bashar Ja'afari used his speech to speak of Turkey as a enabled proliferator (Ri Tong Il called the US the world's biggest proliferator.)  And so it goes at the UN.

    Back on April 7 the US sent out this media note:

  It referred to human rights, on which a UN Security Council Arria formula meeting is expected on April 17. It reiterated the Council's unanimous condemnation of ballistic missile firing - but left it unclear if anything beyond those "Elements to the Press" is being sought. It said the three countries will consult with China and Russia.  Here is the Media Note just sent out:

April 7, 2014 U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea Trilateral Meeting in Washington MEDIA NOTE

Following President Obama’s March 25 meeting in The Hague with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Republic of Korea (ROK) President Park Geun-hye, the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) held a productive, substantive trilateral meeting April 7, 2014 to coordinate on a wide range of issues related to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

These discussions reflect the close ongoing cooperation between our three countries, as well as our common values and interests across the Asia-Pacific region.

We restated our commitment to the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks and its core goal: the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.

We reaffirmed the UN Security Council’s unanimous condemnation of the DPRK’s recent ballistic missile launches as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094.

We also reiterated our commitment to the full and transparent implementation of all UN Security Council resolutions concerning the DPRK and urged the DPRK to refrain from further threatening actions.

We pledged to continue working closely with each other and with our allies and partners in the international community to focus international attention on the deplorable human rights situation in North Korea, and to hold the DPRK accountable for its systematic and ongoing violations of the human rights of its people.

We likewise agreed on the importance of improvements in inter-Korean relations and a resolution of the abductions issue.

All parties committed to close continued bilateral and trilateral coordination, as well as consultation with China, Russia, and other key partners on relevant issues concerning the DPRK.

 On April 4 at the UN to the North Korean deputy, Inner City Press asked two rounds of questions (see below), the first on the upcoming April 7 trilateral meeting of the US, Japan and South Korea in Washington, the second about a UN Security Council "Arria formula" meeting on North Korea human rights tentatively scheduled for April 17. Video here, from Minute 5:55.

  Ri Tong Il said the trilateral meeting is about the US wanting a military alliance, a continued military presence in the region.  On the Arria formula meeting, he said to wait and see -- then added that if the US steps over the "red line," they know what will happen. Do they? And where is the line?

  US envoy Robert King, Ri Tong Il said, is not be allowed into the DPRK, therefore his requests about prisoner Kenneth Bae will not be considered. Asked of drones, Ri Tong Il spoke of US drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In his opening statement he spoke of the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and said the US should "go through punishment."

  The 11 am press conference was only announced at 10:35 am. When Ri Tong Il entered, there were few journalists in the room. He waited five minutes then began.

 He called on Inner City Press / the new Free UN Coalition for Access for the first question. Since the old UN Correspondents Associations so-called "Holy Seat" was empty and no attempt had been made to brand the press conference as UNCA (become the UN's Censorship Alliance), Inner City Press did not mention FUNCA, said only, thanks.

  But then a questioner from Reuters, whose bureau chief has engaged in outright censorship by mis-citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to con Google into banning one of his "on the record" anti-Press complaints to the UN from Google's Search, told Ri Tong Il, Thank you on behalf of UNCA. Video here, from Minute 10:12.

  So while it should not have been necessary, FUNCA then thanked Ri Tong Il, video here from Minute 23:33, to counter this branding by the UN Censorship Alliance, whose board tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN and has had no reforms.

   Back on March 27, two days after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea fired medium range missiles toward Japan, the UN Security Council held a meeting at the request of the US.

  Afterward Council president for March Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg read out "elements to the press" that all members agreed the launch was a violation, and that consultations would continue. Video here.

  Inner City Press asked if a Presidential Statement or Press Statement was envisioned, but Lucas did not expand. Inner City Press asked her, and then South Korean's Permanent Representative, if they thought the launch's timing was related to the trilateral meeting held in The Hague between Japan, South Korea and the US.

  Lucas said it did not come up; the South Korean PR said that whatever North Korea's motives, the launch was a violation. Then it was over.

  During the meeting, a North Korean diplomat sat on a couch further down the second floor. Another diplomat spoke with him there, then returned, into the Council then out in the so-called Turkish Lounge. We hope to have more on this.
   On March 26, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq was asked by Inner City Press if Ban had any comments on the launch.. Video here.

  Haq said, You'll recall after the firing of short range missiles, on March 17... the Secretary General emphasized the need for DPRK to refrain for provocative acts.

  But even three hours later as a UN Security Council meeting began, on the Golan Heights, there was no UN Secretariat comment yet. (Later one was emailed out: in response to questions.) French Ambassador Gerard Araud breezed into the 3 pm meeting at 3:22 and said there might be a Council statement, he wasn't sure.

  The night before, Inner City Press asked Luxembourg, as UN Security Council president for March, if any meeting was in the works. Their mission quickly replied, "@innercitypress we are aware of reports, no UNSC meeting foreseen for the moment."

  And on March 26 she said nothing for that day; if tomorrow, she said let's see if there is a request.

  In Washington, US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said on March 25:

North Korea launched two No Dong medium-range ballistic missiles from near its west coast on March 26 (local time). Both flew in an easterly direction over North Korea’s land mass and impacted in the Sea of Japan, according to U.S. government information. It does not appear that North Korea issued any maritime notifications providing warning of the launches.

We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Coming on the heels of the DPRK’s March 3 and February 27 Scud launches, these March 26 launches of medium-range No Dong ballistic missiles represent a troubling and provocative escalation that the United States takes very seriously.

Launches using ballistic missile technology are a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1718, 1874, and 2094. Resolutions 1718 and 1874 require North Korea to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and to re-establish a moratorium on missile launches. Resolutions 1874 and 2094 further require the DPRK to stop conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology.

We are closely coordinating with our allies and partners, including in the UN Security Council, to take the appropriate measures in response to this latest provocation and to address the threat to global security posed by the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

We urge North Korea to exercise restraint and refrain from further threatening actions.

    Was the March 24 press conference one of threats? The DPRK deputy
recounted a litany of ways the US has thrown "cold water" on attempts at reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, adding the the US needs an enemy in the region to justify its military presence.

  Inner City Press, after thanking Ri Tong Il for this briefing on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, asked him to comment on the trilateral Japan - South Korea - US meeting planned for March 24 in The Hague, and on last week's announcement that DPRK will resume "high level" talks with Japan. Video here from Minute 29:57.

  After saying, "I know you," Ri Tong Il told Inner City Press to "ask them" the first question. On the second, he cited the 2002 Joint Declaration in Pyongyang with Japan -- here -- adding that "past crimes" must be addressed.

  After his opening statement he'd said he could only take a couple of questions. Pamela Falk of CBS grabbed the first one for the United Nations Correspondents Association, and promptly asked two questions.  And so it goes at the UN.

  Back on January 24, DPRK's then Permanent Representative Sin Son Ho held a press conference.  He read a five-page statement entitled "It Is the Invariable Stand of the DPRK to Improve the Inter-Korean Relations and Achieve National Reconciliation and Unity."

  When he was finished he took three questions. He called on Inner City Press second, and when asked, "Will you answer the first one?" said he would take them in a bunch. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, he was thanked for the briefing, and prospectively for answers. But it was not to be.

  Inner City Press asked if the inter-family reunions he referred to would go forward even if the South Korean - US military exercises set for February do. Inner City Press asked asked, as it has the UN, about UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's January 2 call to President Park of South Korea, on which the UN refused to give a read-out. (FUNCA has protested this.)

  But Sin Son Ho said that the answers would be found in his statement -- no Ban there -- or on KNCA, state media. Might they know what Ban and Park discussed, and why?

 South Korean president Park Geun-hye went public on January 2 about a call her office said was initiated to her by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  Ban "discussed the situation in North Korea, regional tensions over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a controversial war shrine and other issues of common interest, her office said."

  What were these other "issues of common interest"?  More than four hours after Park's office went public about the call, the UN through Ban's spokespeople or otherwise, has provided no information. This is a pattern.

  As 2013 ended at the UN, the question arose why Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's statement on tensions between Japan and Ban's native South Korea (and China) was given to regional media before the Press which had formally asked a question, and why Ban's spokesperson has been deflecting questions since.

The answer, proposed exclusively to Inner City Press by well-placed sources in South Korea, involves Ban Ki-moon being in a poll for the country's 2017 presidential election, as a candidate of incumbent Park's faction of the ruling Saenuri party. Click here for story on that polling, in Korean.

Last week, Inner City Press asked Ban's two top spokespeople:

"on South Sudan, in light of the SG's response at his last stakeout, please provide his / the UN's response to the subsequent report that

'The Korean side is now accusing the Japanese of politically using the emergency faced by Korean troops in South Sudan, with one unnamed official saying that the Abe government’s linking of the ammo supply to its 'active pacifism' initiative was a 'clear political provocation.' Another unnamed official said Korea had told the Japanese to handle this quietly out of fear that the locals would turn hostile and attack Korean troops if word got out that they’d received ammo, but the Japanese were instead turning this into a big story. Korean government officials are also saying that they intend to return all the ammo to Japan once Korean ammo arrives from Korea, despite the fact that the Japanese said they could keep it.'"

But the spokesperson, Martin Nesirky and Farhan Haq, never answered this question, or even acknowledged receiving it.

  While later a "Note to Correspondent" about Ban's position was sent out, and Inner City Press reported on it, it turned out that the very same Ban position had been given out to regional media 13 hours before. This practice is being opposed in 2014 by the Free UN Coalition for Access, whatever the motives of the practice.

  But here, as also illuminated by Ban spokesperson Nesirky's push-back at questions from Chinese media on December 30, and December 31 responding to Inner City Press' factual question about whether UNMISS had been contacted by the South Koreans before the South Koreans contacted Japan (and also about UNMISS' relationship with the American military or bullet-holders), there may be more.

  December 31 Q&A video here, and embedded below.

The theory, made composite from Inner City Press' South Korean sources, goes like this:

"South Korean peace keepers receive artillery fire from hostile forces -> SK field commanders immediately request ammunition shipment from Japanese peace keepers in the vicinity -> Japanese cabinet convenes an emergency meeting to approve the shipment -> shipment goes to SK -> upon media scrutiny (as this could mark a landmark shift in Japan's overseas defense activity), SK denies making a direct request to Japan and claims that it was made through UN (UNMISS) -> Japan refutes and even releases a clip from video conf between SK and JP units to prove its point -> UN supports SK's claim -> SK explains that the decision was made by field commanders... To put it succinctly [according to this theory]: Ban is potentially giving political cover for the Park administration by insisting on UN's role in the process."

So why didn't Ban's spokesperson answer Inner City Press' initial written question last week, or Inner City Press' in-person December 31 question? Such stonewalling only gives rise to more questions, or as here, theories. Or, when will it and the other so far ignored questions be answered? Watch this site.

Footnote: as context for most other than Chinese media on December 30 not pursuing this, consider that the insider United Nations Correspondents Association has accepted a large Samsung television, which was being installed on December 31.

 UNCA's 2013 and 2014 president Pamela Falk claimed that the TV does not involve any mission. But even the UN, when asked by Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access, admitted that the TV equipment went from Samsung to South Korea's Mission to the UN to the UN and then to UNCA: it involved the South Korean mission and government. We'll have more on this. 
[January 2 update, and e-mail from "UNCA Office, here.]

Update: after 5:50 pm on New Years Eve the UN provided the responses below, which we publish just after 6 pm on December 31:

Subject: Your questions at noon on South Sudan
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, Dec 31, 2013 at 5:52 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Regarding your question at noon today on Pariang, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has provided the following information from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS):

As of 31 December, UNMISS has 120 troops in its base in Pariang. The Mission reports it has no evidence that Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) elements are involved in the conflict in South Sudan.

On your question on the provision of ammunition to the South Korean engineering corps in UNMISS, this was a bilateral arrangement between two Member States. We suggest you direct your question to the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea. In terms of the UNMISS role, the Mission transported the ammunition to the South Korean troops in Bor. The US is a troop contributor to UNMISS; it contributes five military personnel to the Mission.


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