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As China and Japan Duelt at 11 pm on Islands, UN Makes Difficult to Cover

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 27 -- Past 11 pm on Thursday in the UN General Assembly, China and Japan traded speeches about the islands China calls Diaoju Dao. It was a major UN moment, but as is typical, the UN botched it, making it more difficult to cover.

  Yang Jiechi the foreign minister of China, a Permanent Five member of the Security Council, began his speech after 9 pm. In his penultimate paragraph he mentioned the islands. Then Inner City Press was told to leave the already near-empty UN Media Center.

  But the Japanese mission, too, was telling journalists that it would reply to China's statement. So why was the Media Center being closed?

Don't worry, Inner City Press was told, there is a live feed up on the third floor. To not keep workers later, Inner City Press agreed and followed, up a darkened ramp and past two cut-outs of Ban Ki-moon: one with a head and one without.

Viewed from a photo booth, the GA hall was nearly empty as Guinea and then Peru delivered their once a year speeches. Then came the rights to reply.

Iran went first, lambasting Bibi Netanyahu's earlier cartoon about nuclear bombs. Then Japan took the floor. Since they were in the front row, the speaker's face could not be seen, at least from the booth. It seemed clear, however, that it was not the country's Permanent Representative Nishida; it seemed from the voice to be Deputy Kodama.

Near the back row of the hall, China's Permanent Representative Li Baodong raised his country's flag, as the name plates are called at the UN. He went back to 1895, and Japan's loss in World War II.

When Japen re-took the floor, they said they wouldn't reply in detail. Why not? China got the last word, invoking 1.3 billion people, and history. Then it was over.

The workers in the UN breathed a sign of relief and headed down to the B1 level. Through the garage and out to the street, still blocked with cement blocks. "I Instagramed it," a staffer said, showing Inner City Press his photograph. It was a moment in time, perhaps a moment of history. But even this, the UN botched and made difficult to cover. And so it goes with this UN.

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