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As Korea's Lee Says UN to Help Sinking Probe, UN Says Nothing

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 8 -- Days after a South Korean Navy ship Cheonan's deadly sinking, President Lee Myung-bak told the press that the United Nations, headed by former South Korean diplomat Ban Ki-moon, would be assisting in determining the cause of the incident.

  But when on April 7 Inner City Press Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe about President Lee's statement, Ms. Okabe professed not to know anything about any UN assistance to South Korea. From the UN transcript, video here

Inner City Press: wanted to ask, President Lee [Myung-bak] of [the Republic of] Korea, in light of the ship that sank, has said that he is seeking or has obtained UN expertise to investigate the causes of the sinking of the ship. Has [the Republic of] Korea asked for UN help?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: I have nothing on that. If that is a press report, I have not seen that yet. Okay?

   But this is not okay. If the president of a G-20 member like South Korea says that the UN "will" help with something, one should be able to believe it.

UN's Ban and South Korea's President Lee: request and message lost?

  Agence France Presse, long before the UN's April 7 noon briefing, reported that

"We are going to carry out a very objective investigation, even with help from the United Nations, so that we may have results which cannot be denied by anybody," Lee told a meeting with senior citizens.

"We have to cooperate with experts from advanced countries and the United Nations to carry out a thorough probe and (when the results come out), the government must take stern measures." Lee's office confirmed the comments

  The JoongAng Daily, which ran the first on the record quote from Mr. Ban's senior advisor Kim Won-soo about his trip to North Korea earlier this year, reported well before the April 7 noon briefing:

Speaking to members of the Korean Senior Citizens Association at a Blue House luncheon, Lee said halfhearted efforts wouldn’t get the job done.

“Experts from developed nations and the United Nations will together carry out painstaking investigations,” Lee was quoted as saying by the Blue House. “They will come up with findings that no one can ever refute, and the government will take firm measures as necessary.”

Addressing speculation surrounding the sinking, Lee reiterated the importance of “credibility.”

  Yes, credibility is important. Watch this site.

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As UN's Ban Rolls Dice on N. Korea Trip, Kim Won-soo Is Asked to Brief Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 3 -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, returning from a brief trip during which protesters in South Sudan told him to "repent before judgment" while he was snubbed in Cyprus by four political parties, is said by close observers to be "rolling the dice" on a trip to North Korea.

  "Ban wants to be remembered as the S-G when the Koreas reunited," the close insider said. "If it happens, all the other failures will be forgotten."

   The importance of the upcoming trip to Ban's closest inner circle is reflected by on the record quotes that his main advisor Kim Won soo -- Ban's Karl Rove, as some put it -- gave to the JoongAng Daily. Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky, with his own Korean connections, about the quote at Wednesday noon briefing, UN transcription here, video here:

Inner City Press... You said the other three members; who are the other three members of Mr. Pascoe’s team?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Kim Won-soo, the Deputy Chef de Cabinet is one of them, and two other members of staff.

Inner City Press: Of DPA or of the Executive Office of the Secretary General?

Spokesperson: One of each.

Inner City Press: Okay. I had asked earlier about when it was first announced that Kim Won-soo was quoted in Joong Ang Daily, describing the trip, saying it may have a nuclear component, as well as humanitarian. So, I was wondering, I mean, those are his quotes, right? That he spoke on the record Joong Ang?

Spokesperson: Well, you have to ask Kim Won-soo.

Inner City Press: That’s why I asked. When it first came up, I actually asked whether he could be a part of the briefing with Lynn Pascoe, since I don’t think he’s ever briefed the media on the record, but he seems to have a pretty important role within the Executive Office of the Secretariat, and obviously he is willing to speak on the record to at least some media. Is that possible to convey that request?

UN's Kim, at left, with UN's Ban and Munoz, on glaciers

Spokesperson: I will certainly convey it.

  Hours later when Ban and his entourage, including Vijay Nambiar and Lynn Pascoe, passed the Press at the Security Council stakeout, Kim Won-soo waved over. Correspondents recounted anecdotes from Ban's trip last month to Haiti. There was general agreement: Mister Kim must brief the press, and on the record. We'll see. Watch this site.

* * *

As UN Tells Yonhap of Kim's and Pascoe's Trip to S. Korea, New(s) Strategy Emerges

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 31 -- With North Korea firing over its maritime border with South Korea, on January 28 with UN and its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had nothing to say, except "we are following up on that." From the UN's transcript of its January 28 media briefing:

Inner City Press: Has the Secretariat taken note of, and does he have any comment on this firing, this reported firing from the North Korean-South Korean maritime border? Do they have concerns about what it reflects?

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: Yes, we have taken note of that incident. Bear with me just a second -- let me see if I have something to tell you on that. I don’t have anything specific to say, but yes, we have taken note of yesterday’s incident, and we’re certainly following up on that. [Video here, fro m Minute 9:45.]

  Then at 2 a.m. on January 31, Yonhap news agency published a scoop from an unnamed UN official that

"Lynn Pascoe, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, and Kim Won-soo, an advisor to Ban, will make a four-day visit to the communist country, starting on Feb. 9, said the official, requesting anonymity."

  Following this UN exclusive disclosure to a South Korean outlet, Ban Ki-moon issued a confirming statement, which did not mention his main advisor Kim Won-soo. Ban's official statement did not specify which topics will be discussed with the Kim Jong-Il regime.

  But Yonhap reported, again citing its Ban administration source, that "the special envoys will discuss issues related to North Korea's nuclear program and humanitarian aid, said the official."

  Five months into Ban's tenure atop the UN, in May 2007, he was angered by the leak to Inner City Press of a internal memo (""Korea Peninsula UN Policy and Strategy Submission to the Policy Committee") proposing that the UN use its "comparative advantage" to make itself relevant on the North Korea issue.

  Now, with the sending of his South Korea chief advisor as a co-special envoy, the competitive advantage is being used, and promoted as such to Yonhap (but not in the subsequent official announcement).

UN's Ban, with Pascoe, Kim Won-soo and Serry, advantage not yet shown

  Back in 2007, Ban had been forced to order an audit of the UN Development Program's North Korea practices, including funding project which it could neither visit nor oversee. UNDP's program had been suspended.

  The UN memo stated that "Unless [the suspension] is reversed, the UNDP program risks being terminated. Rather than being able to support the six-party talks process and international engagement with North Korea at this critical juncture, the UN will lose its unique comparative advantage in that area altogether."

  Recently, despite the continuing nuclear standoff and renewed firing across the border, as well as lack of movement on human rights, UNDP re-started its North Korea program. And now the Ban administration's "comparative advantage" is back.

  Usually in the UN system there is a rule against officials working on their own country's issues. Kim Won-soo, despite his position of power in the UN, has never given a press conference there, and insists on never -- or nearly never -- being quoted. Now would seem to be the time to speak. Watch this site.

Footnote: the choice to semi-official leak the news to South Korea's Yonhap follows a challenged decision by Ban's new spokesman Martin Nesirky -- formerly Reuters' Seoul bureau chief -- to include South Korean television as one of only eight media organization he initially invited to accompany Ban to Haiti after the earthquake, over CNN, Bloomberg, EFE and Associated Press.

 (After protests, CNN, AP and two others were included -- Nesirky has since disputed that he "caved," insisting that more seats on the plane were found but granting conciliatory one on one interviews with Ban, which did not include the news given days afterwards to Yonhap.)

  Now the leak of this news to Yonhap, with Kim Won-soo's name in it, quickly followed by Nesirky's office issuing a Ban confirmation sans Kim, will raise other questions. To be continued.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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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

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