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After Press Qs on Japan Ammo to Koreans, Ban Speaks on Abe & Yasukuni: In Stages

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 28, updated -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine to Japan's World War Two dead has drawn a comment from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.  It comes after a week of his spokesperson refusing to answer any Press questions including on Korean - Japanese relations, South Sudan and even where Ban was on December 26 and 27.

  Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky, among more than a dozen ignored questions, to "please state where the SG *is,* much as other figures such as President Obama and NYC's incoming mayor do, in light of online notice that '26-27 December 2013, Secretary-General is away from Headquarters,' or please explain why that is not the SG's / UN's practice."

  Even the policy questions has not been answered; Ban's location was never provided. Similar questions plagued New York City's outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg, and candidates to replace him committed to make public where they are, since they are public officials.

  Is the UN Secretary General not a public official? Ban has commented on South Korea's (and China's but not North Korea's) anger at Abe's Yasukuni visit.

  But Ban's spokesperson has not answered, or even acknowledged receipt of, this question Inner City Press submitted in lieu of the canceled UN noon briefing which the Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info repeatedly asked be put back on the schedule, given the crises in South Sudan and Central African Republic, and what Ban described as mobility and partnership reforms which failed in the UN Budget Committee and General Assembly on December 27:

"on South Sudan, in light of the Secretary General'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 telling the Chosun Ilbo 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.'"

This question has still not been answered. But twenty hours after Inner City Press submitted it, Nesirky's office sent out this "Note to Correspondents" on December 28 at 8:32 am in New York -- some were given it a full 12 hours earlier, apparently on a geographic or political basis -- which we publish in full:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Sat, Dec 28, 2013 at 8:32 AM
Subject: Note to Correspondents

Note to Correspondents

In response to questions from journalists, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General has the following to say:

The Secretary-General is aware of the visit by the Prime Minister of Japan to the Yasukuni shrine, as well as of a strong reaction to it by China and the Republic of Korea. The Secretary-General has consistently stated that the countries in Northeast Asia are important partners for the United Nations whose contribution is significant in shaping our future.

It is highly regrettable that tensions from the past are still plaguing the region. The Secretary-General has been consistent in urging the countries in the region to come to a common view and understanding of their shared history. He stresses the need to be sensitive to the feelings of others, especially memory of victims, and focus on building mutual trust and stronger partnership. Leaders bear special responsibility in that regard, as the region should strive to be forward-looking and harmonious.

28 December 2013, New York

Refusal to answer basic questions, among other things, hardly leads to meaningful harmony. But it has been a full week without UN answers to basic questions. Watch this site.

Update: Given the hours-long gap between Ban's statement on Abe's visit to Yasukuni and opposition by South Korea and China being given to some media, apparently on a regional or politicized basis, and not to others which had also asked about the tensions, the Free UN Coalition for Access to ramp up oversight of this increasing lack of consistency and transparency. Watch this site.


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