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UN's North Korea Sanctions Include Kevlar, Staged by US Amid Free Lunch Accusations

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN: News Muse

UNITED NATIONS, July 16 -- Four days after what was said to be its deadline, the UN's North Korea Sanctions Committee on July 16 imposed asset freezes on five companies and five individuals, and prohibited providing North Korea with certain graphite products and, strangely, Kevlar. This last is usually associated with bullet proof vests.

  Inner City Press asked the Charge d'Affaires of the Republic of Turkey Mr. Fazli Corman, the Acting Chairman of the Sanctions Committee, why Kevlar was on the list. He said it was too technical to answer. Later, Googling, some connections were found.

   The star of the stakeout was Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu, who called it a historic day. Inner City Press asked if there had been any discussion of taking action on banks which might enable North Korea's arms trade or program, such as the bank in Malaysia regarding which the U.S. reportedly recently contacted Kuala Lumpur. Takasu replied that all banks -- "not only in Malaysia" -- have a duty of not assisting Pyongyang's programs.

   Several journalists asked Takasu about the Kang Nam 1 ship which left North Korea, reportedly for Myanmar, then turned back. One reporter yelled, what was on it? I am not comfortable discussing that in public, Takasu answered. Undeterred, Inner City Press asked if Takasu thought or knew it was heading for Myanmar. Takasu did not answer.

Japan's Takasu at a stakeout, with US flag but not speaker

  While the Committee met in the UN's basement, this Q & A took place upstairs before UN TV camera, in the second floor stakeout in front of the Security Council. Earlier on Thursday, after an ill-attended stakeout by Stephen Rapp, current Special Court for Sierra Leone Prosecutor now nominated for the U.S.'s top war crimes post, a representative of the US Mission to the UN asked UN TV to not take apart its camera, to stay waiting "for an hour."

   More than an hour later, the Turkish and Japanese Ambassadors came up to talk, along with at least two US Mission staffers. No one spoke for the US, however. Some wonder if the Obama Administration, eager for dialogue, does not want to be too closely associated, at least on camera, with the the imposition of sanctions. On the other hand, Japan is clearly the most threatened -- except South Korea....

Footnote: in full disclosure, just as the Sanctions Committee meeting was getting out in the UN basement at 1:15 p.m., a meeting began on "applying sustainable development to arms-transfer decisions," complete with free sandwiches.

  Several reporters including this one picked up one of the free sandwiches -- roasted red pepper on thick black bread -- but did not attend the arms control event, rather followed Takasu up to the second floor stake out. One US Mission staffer called this "ghetto," and vowed to blog about it. To echo George W. Bush and Pyongyang, on peppers but not Kevlar: bring it on.

As Security Council Meets on N. Korea, Malay Bank, Ban and Kang Nam 1 in UN Penumbra

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 6, updated -- As the UN Security Council mechanically convened days after North Korea fired seven missiles into the Sea of Japan, the mystery grew around the Kang Nam 1 ship with its reputed cargo of weapons for Myanmar, and the unnamed Malaysian bank reportedly pegged to process Burmese payments.

  The place of a middleman between the regimes in North Korea and Myanmar is called by some the vortex of evil. Others apparently call it good business.

  Reports -- and photos -- emerged Monday of tunnels in Myanmar designed by North Korean advisers. DVB reports that

"five Burmese companies – Htoo Trading, Kambawza, Asia World, Aden and Shwe Thanlwin – are known however to have provided machinery for the digging of the tunnels... A secret visit by General Thura Shwe Mann, the Burmese regime’s third-in-command, along with 18 other high ranking military officials to North Korea in November 2008, is another indicator of how the two countries have been cooperating. During the visit, Shwe Mann and North Korean Army Chief General Kim Gyok-sik signed an Memorandum of Understanding on further cooperation plans. The Burmese delegation also visited an underground military hardware factory near Pyongyang."

   But it is Pyongyang's threats to Japan and Seoul which trigger UN action. Myanmar gets a free pass.

   In front of the Security Council late Monday afternoon, Japanese media converged as they did after the last launch by Pyongyang. South Korea's Ambassador came and said they expect the Council to react. Inner City Press asked a Council diplomat when Ban Ki-moon's envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari is slated to brief the so-called Group of Friends on Myanmar.

   This is what Ban said when empty handed he left Myanmar: that Gambari would return to New York and brief the Friends while he traveled on to Geneva -- click here for Inner City Press' UNCTAD story -- Ireland and then the G-8 meeting in Italy.

N. Korea's Kang Nam 1, returning home in Ban's penumbra?

   The diplomat said Ban would have been expected to do the briefing himself, but perhaps with so little accomplished, Gambari would have to do.

   A strange theory justifying Ban's apparently fruitless trip to Myanmar began to circulate in the UN on Monday: that it was due to Ban's presence that the Kang Nam 1 did not dock in Myanmar. Since Ban has already claimed on the Charlie Rose television program that he saved 500,000 people in Myanmar, taking credit for the Kang Nam 1's return to North Korea may not be far off.

   While the Malaysian bank at issue has so far gone unnamed, one wonders if the UN committee set to finger companies for sanctions this coming Friday might not name the Malay bank. Watch this space.

Update of 5:40 p.m. -- the Council has "suspended" its consultations on North Korea until 6 p.m..

Update of 6:06 p.m. -- a Council diplomat tells the Press that whatever will happen today will happen soon. The crowd of mostly Japanese media expresses a collective desire to leave.

Update of 7:05 p.m. -- First, the Chinese delegation strode out, telling the Press, the President will have a statement for you. Then the U.S. squad, with Susan Rice, Alejandro Wolff and at least two bodyguards, came out, the bodyguards between Ms. Rice and the press. Finally the Ugandan Ambassador, Council president for July, emerged and read out what he called an "oral statement," that the Council condemns the missiles, finding them a violation of resolutions. He was followed by Japan's Ambassador Yukio Takasu, who called the "oral statement" -- less even than a formal Press Statement, which in turn is less than a Presidential Statement which is less than a resolution -- "clear and strong."

Inner City Press asked Amb. Takasu to comment on the Kang Nam ship. Takasu said that Japan had spoken with other neighboring countries about their duty to search such North Korea ships if they came to port. Inner City Press asked, did Japan speak to Myanmar, and what does Japan think of Ban Ki-moon's recent two day trip to Myanmar: success or failure?

Takasu said Japan spoke "bilaterally" to countries in Asia "but not necessarily to Myanmar." He said it was too early to judge Ban's trip, she spoke with Ban and Gambari "during" the trip and would be briefed upon Ban's return to New York. He called the current outcome of the Kang Nam trip a demonstration of the value of UN resolutions. But the Ugandan Ambassador told Inner City Press that the Kang Nam didn't even come up during the consultations, and another Council diplomat confirmed this. Go figure. Watch this site.

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WFP In Pyongyang Has Korean Speakers Expelled, Flies African Children to Eat for G-8

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 2 -- While the UN in New York announced that its World Food Program will shrink what remains of its program in North Korea, in the midst of declining donor confidence and missile tests by Pyongyang, the UN was more quiet about the restrictions it had been under and is accepting in the country. WFP in a memorandum from Beijing notes that the Kim Jong Il government now requires that none of WFP's remaining international staff should be able to speak Korean.

Inner City Press is told that WFP - Pyongyang's main Korea speaker was expelled from the country as persona non grata on June 20 and that this bodes badly for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon naming a new UN envoy to North Korea. Reportedly, Ban had focused on a South Korean envoy, with an eye toward running the candidate by members at the upcoming G-8 meeting. But if Kim Jong Il is expelling from the country what few UN system Korean speakers remained, such an envoy seems even less likely.

Speaking of WFP and the G-8, for the upcoming meeting WFP is flying in children from Ghana to eat as a part of an "exhibit" for the spouses of G-8 leaders on July 10. The internal WFP email is below. Several WFP sources expressed disgust to Inner City Press at the event, which they ascribe to WFP head Josette Sheeran. One asked, "Would she parade around Food Stamp recipient in the United States?" They put the expenses of the event, including the substantial closure of the WFP headquarters on July 10, at $500,000.

WFP's Sheeran gives award to UN's Ban, PNG and  Eat for G-8 not shown

The e-mail:

Rome colleagues:

As you know, Italy will be hosting the G8 Summit next week and leaders from more than two dozen countries will be in L’Aquila. We are honored that the Italian government has asked WFP to host an official program at our headquarters on Friday, 10 July, as part of the spouse program.
This visit is a profound testament to the increasing visibility of WFP's work -- and an opportunity to help the world better understand the important work we do. On our premises, we are arranging a simulated food distribution and a symbolic African schoolhouse, where a small group of Ghanaian schoolchildren will help celebrate our work. (You may have noticed the large exhibit being erected this morning behind the pool.)

Due to the security precautions mandated by the Italian government and the visiting delegations, only those employees involved in the event or deemed necessary for critical operations by their managers will be permitted on the main building premises during the morning of July 10. Among other things, parking will be severely limited at our main building and automobile access limited in Parco de Medici in general.

But we encourage you to take advantage of this special exhibit and bring your families, including your children, on the afternoon of 10 July – anytime after 2:00 – so they can get a taste of our field work and meet the schoolchildren. If you cannot bring your family on 10 July, note that the tent and displays will remain up on Monday, 13 July, so we invite you to bring family members to see the display then.

Though this is a special event, we realize it might cause some inconvenience. We hope you can appreciate what an historic opportunity this is for some of the world’s most influential people to understand what we do and to see the impact of their donations.

Here are some guidelines for the day: If you work in the main building, please do not come to the office Friday morning, 10 July. The St. Martin’s building will remain open. As much as possible, please work from home... We expect the main building to re-open for business as usual at 2:00, so if it's feasible for you to return, please do so. If returning to the office in the afternoon is not feasible for you -- we recognize that some of the Parco de Medici transit options do not run in the afternoon, for instance – you are authorized special leave with full pay. Thank you,

Steve Taravella
Chief of Internal Communications, World Food Programme
Via C.G. Viola 68,Rome, Italy 00148

As N. Korea Resolution Passes, No Force on Ships, AK-47s In, U.S. Does Not Speak at UN, Georgia (and DC) In Mind

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 -- After twenty days of talking about nuclear North Korea, the UN Security Council on Friday adopted a sanctions resolution. Afterwards, China's Ambassador emerged to say that for cargo inspections, there should be no use of force, not even the threat of use of force. Inner City Press asked Japan's Ambassador Takasu, who was bragging how strong the resolution is, if what China said is true. Video here.

   In a lengthy answer, Amb. Takasu argued that the resolution calls for suspicious ships to go to the nearest port. And if they don't? Then they get reported to the Security Council's committee on North Korea sanctions. It is reminiscent of a scene in the spoof film Team America, in which Hans Blix is asked by Kim Jong Il what Blix will do if North Korea does not comply. We will write another letter to you, Blix answers before being thrown to the sharks.

  Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert why he had voted for a resolution which explicitly allowed continued sales of small arms and light weapons to North Korea. From France's transcript:

Inner City Press: The resolution allows for sale of small arms and weapons to North Korea, there is an exclusion to allow that sale. Why is it in there and does France favor that ?

Amb. Ripert: for light arms, some categories of arms. It was requested by some member states saying that what we want to achieve is not to have a full embargo against the country of North Korea, what we want to achieve is to cut the links that North Korea has to get some resources to fund its programs and its by exporting arms that they get some funding. So the important part of the reasoning was to stop the export of all those arms to cut their resources and their funding.

UN Council meets on DPRK, some PRs not present

Inner City Press: Is there any discussion about the two journalists which have been arrested and now condemned to 12 years of hard labour ? What does France think of that ?

Amb. Ripert: there were discussions all over the place at the United Nations but not in the Security Council. We were discussing the resolution. We of course strongly condemn the condemnation of those journalists.

  Inner City Press asked new UK Deputy Permanent Representative Philip John Parham if and why the UK supported allowing the sale of small arms and light weapons to North Korea. "We have have preferred a broader ban," he said, "but this is what has been agreed by the Council." Video here, from Minute 4:40. The UK reportedly held another briefing for select journalists; perhaps there they explained their vote for a specific exclusion to allow continued flow of SLAW.

    Inner City Press also asked Ripert about the state of negotiations on the Abkhazia resolution which would have to pass by Monday:

Inner City Press: About the Georgia consultations given President Sarkozy’s role in it. Is there a resolution ready for vote Monday and does France believe that it should say "Abkhazia, Georgia", or how is that going to be resolved, what is your thinking ?

Amb. Ripert: There are talks going on now, as you know we had to spend a lot of time on North Korea, unfortunately we started discussing Georgia a bit late. There are very serious talks now among the group of friends of Georgia and we will continue those talks probably today, this morning and we hope to be in a position to circulate the text as soon as possible with the aim of adopting a new regime before the expiration of the resolution on Monday night.

   Later the German mission specified that negotiations will continue over the weekend. Georgia's president has reportedly vowed to do all possible to get the word "Georgia" in the resolution. But Russia is holding most of the cards. We'll see.

Footnote: No U.S. representative came to the UN stakeout on Friday to talk about the resolution. The US Mission explained that Susan Rice was in Washington. Some questioned why the U.S. would have so little to say at the UN on this issue. Regardless of one's view, the fact is that France, Japan and the UK spoke and took questions, while China spoke but took no questions. The U.S. neither spoke at the stakeout nor took questions. It can further be noted that while UK Permanent Representative Sawers is away, his Deputy spoke and took questions. What does this all mean? Watch this site.

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At UN, N. Korea Test Reaction Veiled in Secrecy, P-5 Search for Leak

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 10, updated June 11 -- Seventeen days after North Korea conducted at least its second underground nuclear test, the UN Security Council is scheduled this morning to circulate a previously-leaked draft sanctions resolution. A belated reaction with belated demands for secrecy, it will finally be made public on a volutary basis. For that reason and those below, for now there was no need to have it published here until circulated - now here it it.

  North Korea has already denounced it, and it is unclear who, if anyone would actually search North Korea ships. Perhaps the U.S. will seize more of Kim Jong-Il's money, as it did in Banco Delta Asia. But it could have done that without action by the Council.

Early in the process, Inner City Press got and published a draft of the resolution, minus substantive operative paragraph eight. Credit was given; there was little push-back.

  Then on June 5 Inner City Press obtained the near-final draft, which had been circulated to the capitals of the Permanent Five member plus Japan and South Korea. Inner City Press put it online that Friday at noon, it went with credit to Japan, the AP, Times of London and Washington Post. The feedback, however, was not all positive.

   Several Ambassadors approached Inner City Press to complain. You have made things more difficult, they said in different ways. One, Rosemary DiCarlo of the U.S., was to her credit willing to explain why. Countries find it hard to back away from positions in a draft that goes online, she said. Another had said, just summarize it, don't put the text online. Ambassador DiCarlo said that it's easier to back away from a summary.

   France's Permanent Representative Jean-Maurice Ripert had an extraordinary reaction. He summoned "the French press," how ever defined, and insisted to them that the draft Inner City Press had put online had not, in fact, been circulated. This had been contradicted by others in the French mission, and by other diplomats. Still Ripert insisted it was true, according to multiple sources in attendance at his meetings.

   Ripert held yet another news event for only portions of the press corps on the eve of the North Korea meeting, this time about peacekeeping. He focused on the Congo, yet the topic of the UN Mission there, known by its French acronym MONUC, constructively working with indicted war criminal Jean-Bosco Ntaganda somehow did not come up. We'll have more on this.

   The U.S. mission took a different approach, grilling other Council members and even Secretariat staff trying to determine the source of the leak. To some, the approach seemed inconsistent with what Barack Obama has said, about transparency and openness to the press. Several journalists detailed to the UN during these past two weeks have expressed surprise at the press relations of the current U.S. mission. Perhaps a work in progress.

Secrecy at the stakeout, hunt for leak and promises of transparency not shown

   Tuesday at six o'clock, the Russian mission emailed out comments of Ambassador Churkin, that consensus is emerging. Then at nine a.m. Wednesday, a meeting was scheduled for two hours later. It will be live blogged here. Watch this space.

Update of 11:08 a.m. -- one by one, or rather each with separate entourage, they have entered. Susan Rice with security and spokesman; Vitaly Churkin, like China's Deputy Liu, with a jaunty step. China's Permanent Representative with a single political advisor and a smile.

  France's Ripert, who reported told some journalists to only expect a vote on Friday, stopped and said in French, hopefully "demain" (tomorrow).

Update of 1:20 p.m. -- the Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, true to form, held its noon briefing in direct conflict with the Ambassadors who spoke at the stakeout. Perhaps so that even fewer reporters would attend and ask questions at the Secretariat's briefing. There were only three, and none of the questions were answered. Afterwards, Russia's Vitaly Churkin was speaking at the stakeout. He was asked why the draft has not yet been "put into blue." Ripert, it was said, repeated his prediction of adoption tomorrow or Friday. Several Japanese reporters expressed relief, that their two week vigil of watching nothing happen appears finally at an end.

Update of 7:53 p.m. -- a vote on Thursday is said to be unlikely, by a non-permanent Security Council member, some of whom pushed back against not having been included in the process of the P-5 plus Two. As Swiss Ambassador Peter Maurer told the Press on Wednesday afternoon, on the record, why do countries work for four years to get a seat on the Council only to sit back and wait to be given the menu by the P-5?

Update of June 11, 11:19 a.m. -- A Russian diplomat tells the Press that there have been a number of amendments proposed, presumably by non P-5 members, and "they must be considered." Asked if a vote Friday is possible, he said, "I do not know... I have to ask my expert."

Update of 11: 26 a.m. -  Japan's Ambassador Takasu, more upbeat, said in Japanese to the press from that country (which in turn offered this translation to Inner City Press) that he is not aware of any opposition, but that he will of course listen to any opinion. Asked if there will be a vote Friday, he said he does not like to make predictions.

Update of 11 p.m. -- it has "gone blue," and a meeting scheduled for June 12 at 11 a.m., presumably to vote: watch this site.

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At UN, Near Final Draft on North Korea Leaked to Inner City Press, Arms Export Ban and Cargo Inspection Added

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press: Exclusive-Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- Thirteen days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test, a near-final draft resolution emerged behind closed doors at the UN Security Council.

The six-page draft, a copy of which Inner City Press obtained and puts online here as a must-credit exclusive, has more than thirty operative paragraphs, compared to the mere 14 paragraphs of the three-page draft Inner City Press similarly obtained and published on May 28. (AP, Japanese and other media appropriately credited Inner City Press).

  This time, Inner City Press is told by its sources that the draft was circulated to the capitals of the Permanent Five Plus Two -- these last are Japan and South Korea -- with the deadline for comments on June 5 at 10 a.m. New York Time.

   The provision allowing North Korea to import light weapons, in Paragraph 10, is attributable to Russia, according to a well placed Inner City Press source who calls it the Kalishnikof or AK-47 clause.

   Beyond the cargo ban, other provisions are weaker than the proponents wanted. Paragraph 19, for example, merely calls on "member states and international financial and credit institutions not to enter into new commitments... except for humanitarian and developmental purposes." Paragraph 17 prohibits "bunkering services, such as provision of fuel or supplies" to vessels. Paragraph 22 calls for reports within 45 days.

At UN, media chases news of draft now published by Inner City Press

  While the draft resolution seems unlikely to change North Korea's course, it has been the subject of intense journalistic interest for nearly two weeks now at the UN in New York, particularly by Japanese media, who have remained camped out in front of the Security Council during meetings on Somalia, Bosnia and Tribunals and on June 5, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

  Non-permanent members of the Security Council complained to the Press that they were kept in the dark throughout the days of negotiation.

On the morning of June 5, Inner City Press obtained the draft resolution that, as a must-credit exclusive, it puts online here. 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.

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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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