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On Cheonon, S.Korea Fires Top General on Eve of Screening Film to UNSC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 14, updated -- Nearly immediately after the release of the South Korea led investigative report blaming the sinking of its Cheonan ship on its neighbor North Korea, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the report was troubling, that the Security Council should take it up and take appropriate action.

Since Ban so often uses the Security Council as an excuse not to comment on or take any role in important topics of the day, Inner City Press asked why this case was so different. Ban's spokesman hastened to say that Ban wasn't telling the Security Council what action to take, only to take it up.

On June 14, the Security Council took the issue up, though only informally, agreeing to hear representatives of South Korea and then North Korea in "informal consultations" not in the Council chamber but in the North Lawn building. (Some found irony, since the Council did not move with Ban to the North Lawn building, but rather stayed in the General Assembly basement, allegedly on safety grounds.)

UN's Ban in South Korea, General and briefing not shown

Inner City Press was told that one precedent for this was the Council's consideration of the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka in 2009. Then, the Council held closed meetings in the basement while the matter stayed off the Council's agenda due to veto threats from Russia and China. Subsequently, the International Crisis Group has called for an international investigation of the UN's ineffective call for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka.

On June 11, it was reported that

"General Lee Sang Eui, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, may have falsified a document to make it appear that he was in the Defense Ministry’s command-and-control center on the night of March 26 when the Cheonan was sunk.. sleeping off a drinking session in his office."

At the UN there was not mention of this. Ban Ki-moon was at the World Cup, where on June 12 South Korea played. On June 14, just before South Korea's presentation, Lee Sang Eui was fired. Watch this site.

Update of 3:11 p.m. -- UN Security has pushed the press back from the second floor room where the Council meets about the Cheonan. To the side of the jam packed Vienna Cafe, a small crowd roars as Paraguay scores, going up 1-0 over Italy. The TVs are provided by the South African mission. There is no cheering among the press corps. No filming, no questions, no access.

Update of 3:51 p.m. -- an Anatolian diplomat, emerging from the South Korean briefing, tells the assembled Asian press that he "personally" found Seoul's briefing convincing. The crowd follows him down the cement stairs. It is impossible to ask about the drunken general.

Update of 5:19 p.m. - with media scrum chasing North Korean Deputy around, action moved to Twitter. But to recap: Araud of France says to his government, the evidence is undeniable: North Korea did it. Strong Council action merited, he says, but up to South Koreans (who are scared).

Update of 6:15 p.m. -- #NKorea Rep, trailed by Asian media, finally says we "totally deny" responsibility. Will answer more questions Tuesday at 11. Media chase him down 1st Ave. 10-4

Update of 7:05 pm - Japan's Takasu says NKorea did it. InnerCityPress asks, why did they go it? To gain what? Takasu: I hope NK will answer that... Tuesday 11 a.m.? 10-4

* * *

While UN Ban Calls for Action for S. Korean Homeland, Silence on Slaughters Hit

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- Since Ban Ki-moon has been UN Secretary General, he has said little to nothing about matters in the purview of the Security Council, and even in the face of the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians he has merely urged caution and restraint, not even a ceasefire.

Then, when a South Korean ship is sunk killing 46 sailors, Ban Ki-moon comes out on the side of his native South Korea, calling the evidence against North Korea troubling, and urging the Security Council to take action.

While Ban had tried to say that though it is his "homeland," he will try to be objective, it is worth comparing his reaction to the killing of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka to the killing of 46 South Koreans military employees.

The UN's own reports about Sri Lanka, as leaked to and published by Inner City Press, enumerated thousands of civilians killed by the government. Still Ban Ki-moon never called for Council action, nor for a ceasefire.

On 46 South Korean deaths, Ban accepts a non-UN report as definitive truth, and calls for Council action.

UN's Ban and SKorea's Lee, Council action not yet shown, but call made by Ban

Various UN officials and staff members have approached Inner City Press, asking what Ban Ki-moon is doing. Inner City Press first asked Ban Ki-moon's South Korean Associate Spokesperson. After receiving no response, at the May 26 noon briefing Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: it may be on this theme of prejudgement, but some have questioned whether the Secretary-General has viewed the statements of the Republic of Korea and of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea sort of equally in the sense of like South Korea said this ship was sunk by North Korea. North Korea has said “we deny it”. Countries have taken sides and said that “we side with North Korea”, I mean, excuse me, with South Korea, we believe them. Some other countries have said, let’s wait and see.

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Which countries?

Inner City Press: For example, China. China has said “let’s wait and see”. So, I guess my question would be, I mean, one, does the Secretary-General, does he view the statements of Republic of Korea and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea equally? Has he, as some say, sort of taken sides in the matter? And reached a conclusion?

Spokesperson: Well, first of all, let’s be very clear on this. This investigation and the results of that investigation, this is not simply an investigation done by the Republic of Korea. This was done by an international group of investigators, including 24 non-South Korean experts. This was an extremely thorough investigation, and the Secretary-General was extremely cautious waiting until the results of that international investigation had been announced. So it’s not as if he jumped precipitously into this. And he waited to see what the results of what was clearly a serious and objective investigation into a serious incident. And of course, it’s the Secretary-General’s duty to be objective; but not to sit on the fence on all issues. And you know very well that he has expressed — he consistently expresses — strong concern on any number of worrisome events taking place in many different parts of the world. And he does that frequently. That’s his job. And this is a very serious situation.

Inner City Press: Well, just one follow-up. He seemed to say in his press conference that he has confidence that the Security Council will take measures appropriate to the gravity of the situation. This seems to prejudge that the Council will in fact take the matter up, whereas in other circumstances he says it’s totally up to the Council to take, I mean, I am just wonder… I am just asking because I think questions are out there. But is he assuming that the Council will take it up? Is he expressing a preference that the Council take it up and issue either a presidential statement or a resolution?

Spokesperson: He has made his views clear on that, and I don’t need to repeat them here.

Inner City Press: So I mean, he has power under Article 99 to actually raise things to the Council. Is that something he would…?

Spokesperson: Any Secretary-General has power under Article 99 indeed to raise issues where he believes that the maintenance of peace and security are threatened. However, the Republic of Korea has already said that it’s going to take this to the Security Council. So that I don’t think it’s a moot point at this stage, I think, Matthew…

Inner City Press: [inaudible] not members, they can say they intend to take it, but…

Spokesperson: They can intend to take it and I think you’ve heard at least one permanent member of the Security Council saying that they would support the Republic of Korea in doing that.

* * *

As Seoul Accuses Pyongyang, Ban Reacts After Obama, But Will Not Take to Council

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 19, updated -- On the sinking of South Korea's ship Cheonan, the proverbial other shoe dropped on Wednesday evening, New York time. The South Korean government formally accused North Korea of sinking the ship with a torpedo, and killing 46 sailors on board. The finding had been telegraphed the day before by South Korea's foreign minister, who said there was little doubt that North Korea did.

  At the UN noon briefing on May 19, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky for a comment:

Inner City Press: Can I ask about [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]?  I am figuring you will have an if-asked on this one.  The Foreign Minister of [the Republic of Korea] has said that there is little doubt that [The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is responsible for the sinking of that ship and the killing of the sailors.  What is the Secretary-General — given his interest, obviously, in the peace in the peninsula — what does he, does he have any comment on that?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky:  He has obviously been following this situation with concern and he has seen the comments reported in the media today.  We will have to await the official report, which is expected to be forthcoming tomorrow from the Republic of Korea before we can make any further comment.

  On the morning of May 19, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon himself about Korea, albeit about reports that the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue said he was tailed around by the country's intelligence service. I have seen the press reports, Ban genially answered. Then he gave a pun-laden talk about distracted driving.

  Later on May 19, after 6 p.m., Nesirky was seen in the UN's new North Lawn building with Ban's top political advisor, the American Lynn Pascoe. And so, when South Korea made its announcement and the White House in Washington already had a statement out, Inner City Press asked Nesirky for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's response.

  "It will be coming shortly," Nesirky wrote at 10:15 pm. Twelve minutes later, 22 minutes after the White House statement, Nesirky commented as follows:

The Secretary-General has learned of the results of the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan naval ship of the Republic of Korea with a heavy heart and serious concern. The Secretary-General appreciates the restrained and patient efforts of the Government of the Republic of Korea to investigate this incident in an objective and scientific manner by both domestic and international experts.

The facts laid out in the report are deeply troubling.  As Secretary-General of the United Nations, he will continue to closely follow developments. The Secretary-General takes this opportunity to express once again his deep sadness over the loss of the sailors. He also extends his heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved families as well as to the people and the Government of the Republic of Korea.

Some might contrast Ban's call for an investigation of 46 deaths by "international experts" with his reluctance, even in the face of calls by the International Crisis Group, Amnesty International and Human Right Watch, to call for any outside review of the killing by the Sri Lankan government last week of tens of thousands of civilians. Others might point out that this is a cross border incident, not as Ban seems to view Sri Lanka's bloodbath on the beach, a merely internal matter.

  But what steps, really, can or will be taken on North Korea? The U.S. is said to want to keep Kim Jong-Il in power, at least for now, for fear of unknown forces gaining control of Pyongyang's weapons.

  Ban Ki-moon earlier this year dispatched his senior advisor Kim Won-soo and Pascoe to North Korea. They came back with surprisingly upbeat reports about the potential for rapprochement. And now?

UN's Ban and South Korea's Lee, Ban and OSSG in UN Council not seen

  On the morning of May 19, Inner City Press asked another of Ban's spokespeople, with even great knowledge of Korea than Mr. Nesirky, who covered the Peninsula for Reuters, if Ban would consider raising the matter to the Security Council pursuant to his powers under Article 99 of the UN Charter. No, was the answer. Inner City Press has sought confirmation and explanation from Nesirky, but at press time it had not yet been received. Watch this site.

Footnote: perhaps relatedly, Nesirky on May 19 confirmed that he and his Office, unlike prior to April 2010, do not have access to any of the Security Council's closed consultations. On May 19 Inner City Press asked him:

Inner City Press: can you confirm that the Chief of Staff, Vijay Nambiar, did write a letter to the Council when this issue first came up, and can you say whether the Council responded?  It just seems strange that you have… when you say “your office”, was there a response made to the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, saying that they could enter but your Office could not, as we understand it?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I would simply repeat what I have said.  My Office has not been directly informed; this does not mean — and I have said it here, too — this does not mean that we have not been trying.  And when I say “we”, that means the Executive Office of the Secretary-General as well, trying to understand and to have a clear answer.  But I personally have not received a clear answer. 

 It is hard to think this will be helpful for this Secretary General to raise or monitor the North Korea -- or DPRK as Nesirky is always quickly to point out -- issues in the Security Council. Watch this site.

Update of 10:57 p.m. -- Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky has responded to questions about Special Rapporteur La Rue being tailed by intelligence agents, and whether Mr. Ban would use his powers under Article 99 of the UN Charter to raise the issue to the Council with this:

"At this stage I would add that we need to follow developments closely before we make any further comment - the findings are only just out."

Meanwhile in Beijing the vice foreign minister of China has called the sinking "unfortunate," but has similarly declined to address the specifics of South Korea's report and accusation. Watch this site.

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.

 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.

* * *

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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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