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At UN, Japan's Month Starts with N. Korea Confusion, Somalia Short Shrift, Seikos

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, February 3 -- As Japan through its Ambassador Yukio Takasu took over the Presidency of the Security Council for February, many issues were left of its program of work until acknowledged in response to questions. North Korea, for example, was not listed.

  But when Inner City Press asked about that nation's break of relations with its southern neighbor and renewed saber or missile rattling, Ambassador Takasu said that, "putting on his Japanese chapeau," these issues are of concern and may arise this month. When asked about reports in the Japanese press that Japan is moving to limit the UN Development Program's re-entry into North Korea, Ambassador Takasu responded as if he had not seen the stories, launching into a justification of supporting UNDP's re-entry. So are the stories, here and there, wrong?

   In describing the footnotes of his program, Amb. Takasu said that "peace and security in Africa" meant the Djibouti - Eritrea conflict. But when Inner City Press asked why Zimbabwe was not listed, Amb. Takasu said that the phrase included Zimbabwe as well.

  No mention was made of the Council's endorsement of the Congolese - Ugandan and South Sudanese offensive against the Lord's Resistance Army, which has gone afoul and led to a slew of massacres by the LRA.

  And at the stakeout on Tuesday, after Takasu recited that the Council condemns violence in Somalia against the AMISOM force, Inner City Press asked if for a response to reports that AMISOM peacekeepers just killed at least 25 civilians. That did not come up, Ambassador Takasu said.

  At the UN's noon briefing on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe if Ban Ki-moon or his envoy to Somalia had any comment on this killing of civilians. I don't have anything on that today, Ms. Okabe said. We'll be waiting.

Amb. Takasu after Japan was elected to Council, now the test begins

  Earlier in the month, Takasu held an hour-long briefing about Japan's goals on this Security Council. None of the other four new members held such a briefing; in fact, they've yet to even speak at the stakeout.

   In his January 9 briefing, Ambassador Takasu said that the Council should first of all be efficient, and transparent only in the service thereof. Some have an ideology of transparency, he said, adding "I'm not sure." Inner City Press asked about the scandal at the UN Information Center in Tokyo. Video here, from Minute 37:39. Ambassador Takasu said "we are very concerned by the report of the board of auditors, we want a very clear investigation and conclusion [and] full accountability." Video here, from Minute 42:02.

  But in the weeks since, nothing has been said. Nor about a similar scandal at another UN center in Japan. The analysis is, Japan so wants a permanent seat on the Security Council, it will allow or cover-up irregularities and even the theft of its taxpayers' money, in order to play nice with the UN.

  Ambassador Takasu is articulate, and has seen the UN from a variety of position, including with UN Peacekeeping from 1993 to 1997. He's set some goals for February, to be timed by the Seiko watches he gave Tuesday to all Council members. We'll monitor progress on the goals.

Update on UNIC from Tokyo: There was an important development regarding the financial irregularities of UNIC Tokyo at the Parliament, House of Representatives Standing Budget Committee on 13 January.  The issues of UNIC Tokyo were taken up in the questions by Representative Mr. Nobuto Hosaka to which the Foreign Minister expressed  “regret” over UNIC Tokyo’s keeping a 5 million yen time deposit for many years, which originated from Japanese contribution to UNIC Tokyo, and announced that the Japanese government has decided to cut approximately 10 million yen from next year’s voluntary contribution to UNIC Tokyo’s Trust Fund, PJA. 

Mr. Nobuto Hosaka, Member of the House of Representatives of the Social Democratic Party of Japan also raised the issue of procurement of plane tickets by UNIC Tokyo for DPKO from 1999 to 2007.  The tickets were for Japanese PKO travelling to UNDOF in which every bid (around 16 million yen annually) was granted to the same travel agent by UNIC Tokyo. 

  As noted, Amb. Takasu working in UN DPKO from 1993 to 1997. If he wants to get to the bottom of this one, and to be transparent, this would be the month. Developing.

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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