Friday, March 18, 2016

US Says It's Seen Reports of North Korea Launch into Sea of Japan, Ready to Defend

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 17 --  Another month, another launch, another statement. The US State Department on the evening of March 17 said:

"We have seen reports that North Korea launched a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

"We call again on North Korea to refrain from actions that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations.

"The United States remains steadfast in its commitments to the defense of its allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan.  We will continue to coordinate closely with our allies and partners in the region."

  Back on February 25 in front of the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Samantha Power said, "There must be and there will be accountability for North Korea's actions." (But not for the UN's actions, apparently, see here and here and below).

  After changes were made to the draft -- dropping KOMID's listed representative in Russia, loosening the restrictions on aviation fuel in Paragraph 31 -- it was unanimously approved on March 2.

After the vote, Inner City Press asked Spanish Ambassador Roman Oyarzun Marchesi to explain the amendment on aviation fuel.

Marchesi, who first tried to take no questions, replied to the side of the UNTV stakeout that the new Paragraph 31 is "stronger." Video here.

 But just to check that, here is the new Paragraph 31, which adds an exception:

"decides also that this provision shall not apply with respect to the sale or supply of aviation fuel to civilian passenger aircraft outside the DPRK exclusively for consumption during its flight to the DPRK and its return flight."

  So what to make of the statement that the adopted Paragraph 31 is "stronger" that the original Paragraph 31? We'll have more on this.

Ban rushed out a statement after the unanimous vote on North Korea. He is, wags say, running for President of South Korea. Meanwhile his failures in Sri Lanka are being highlighted again by his USG of DPI Cristina Gallach, Spain's highest UN official, throwing Inner City Press into the street, and trying to seize its desk and Resident Correspondent's accreditation, without any due process. There's been a protest, click here to view.

It is sometimes asked, what is the responsibility of a donor state which places one of its nationals into a politically-appointed job in the UN.  To ensure they answer questions? Non. But at least, to make sure they don't censor, and to do something if they do? We say Si.

 On February 29 (leap year), the following arrived on background:

"The United States has asked that the draft sanctions resolution on the DPRK be put in blue. We have requested that the Angolan presidency schedule the adoption for tomorrow after Security Council consultations on the March program of work, which will start at 3:00 p.m."

But then on March 1, this:

"Subsequent to the United States’ request to place the draft sanctions resolution on DPRK into blue and to schedule a Council vote for this afternoon, Russia invoked a procedural 24-hour review of the resolution, so the vote will be on Wednesday."

  On the afternoon of March 1, when the vote was to have taken place, Russia's ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the press, "Issues to take care of, we discussed them with the US delegation, I think they accommodated some of our concerns. Have they accommodated all of our concerns? not entirely. But you know, we are working for consensus of course.  You never get everything you want. It's very complicated text. It's a resolution that is necessary, which the Security Council need to adopt because of of certain
challenges coming from DRPK. So we'll see what happens tomorrow."

Churkin didn't answer on the coal or fuel provisions; it was unclear but as to one individual he said, “He is not even in Russia. We are surprised he appeared there in the first place.”

   Inner City Press notes, in the annex of the weekend's draft, one Jang Song Chol, listed as KOMID's representative in Russia...

 At a UNSC wrap up session earlier on February 29, Spain as chair of the DPRK sanctions commitee said it hopes for adoption as soon as possible.

 After the February 25 meeting, Power emerged and described the proposed new sanctions. Inner City Press asked, any humanitarian carve-out for example on the aviation fuel ban? No answer. (Japan did answer, below). Power as fast transcribed by

"Today in response to the DPRK’s recent nuclear test and subsequent proscribed missile launch, the United States tabled a draft security council resolution that, if adopted, would break new ground and represent the strongest set of sanctions imposed by the Security Council in more than two decades.

Let me explain some of the resolution’s major provisions. The first time in history, all cargo going in and out of the DPRK would be subjected to mandatory inspection. For the first time, all small arms and other conventional weapons would be prohibited to be sold to the DPRK.

In addition, this resolution would impose financial sanctions targeting DPRK banks and assets, and ban all who use nuclear and missile-related items. Also for the first time, the Security Council would impose sectoral sanctions on the DPRK, limiting and in some instances banning outright exports from the DPRK of coal, iron, gold, titanium, and rare earth minerals, and banning the supply to the DPRK of aviation fuel, including notably rocket fuel. These measures would also ground DPRK flights suspected of carrying contraband; suspicious vessels carrying illicit items would be denied access to ports.

These sanctions, if adopted, would send an unambiguous and unyielding message to the DPRK regime. The world will not accept your proliferation. There will be consequences for your actions. And we will work relentlessly and collectively to stop your nuclear program. If adopted, and implemented fully, these sanctions would constitute a major increase in pressure compared to the Council’s previous actions on DPRK. They have broader scope, and target more of the DPRK’s pressure points. They also have unprecedented interdiction provisions to make sure the other provisions get enforced. Most notable among them is mandatory inspection of cargo to and from the DPRK.

In addition, these sanctions would make it much harder for the DPRK to raise the funds, import the technology, and acquire the know-how to advance its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs. For more than a decade, in spite of the international community’s efforts, DPRK has taken progressive steps toward its declared goal of developing nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. The international community cannot allow the DPRK regime to achieve that goal. The United States will not allow that to happen."

  Inner City Press asked Japan's PR Motohide Yoshikawa the same question, if any humanitarian carve outs in the case of famine, for example. He said humanitarian concerns are "embedded" in the resolution, which he said he'd just seen.

 Could the US not have shared the draft with its UNSC ally Japan?

 French PR Francois Delattre, when asked on his way in what the strongest element in the draft is, said You will soon see. So he's seen it, but not Japan?

  And what of the pending free press outrage at the UN?

  As the UN Security Council's 11 am Sunday meeting began, French Ambassador Francois Delattre stood on the entrance steps making points in French and English. China's Ambassdor Liu Jieyi squeezed by the stairs and, when almost into the Council, turned and said, "We are greatly concerned, we are working with the Council." Video here.

After UN (formerly US) official Jeffrey Feltman briefed the Security Council behind closed doors, the Council agreed on a Press Statement, read out at the stakeout by Rafael Ramirez of Venezuela, President for February. Inner City Press tweeted a photo of the Press Statement, here; it says “the Security Council will adopt expeditiously a new Security Council resolution.”

  But on his way out, Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, “We haven't seen a text at all.” He said Russia would like to see a re-start of the Six Party Talks abut that “currently the atmosphere is such that the resumption of those talks is unlikely.”

   In a three way stakeout (complete with one question each from US, Japanese and Korean media), US Ambassador Power cited Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping's phone conversation, saying “they agreed on the importance of  a strong and united international response to North Korea’s illegal actions, including through an impactful UN Security Council resolution.”

   South Korea's Ambassador Oh Joon said, “about the missile defense, as you know the Republic of Korea and United States announced yesterday an alliance decision to improve the existing missile defense system. As the terminology first, this is missile defense system, which is defensive in nature. And it shouldn’t worry anyone else because this is focused on North Korea’s provocations and predicated on North Korea’s provocations.”

Before the meeting Japan's Ambassador Yoshikawa said it is time to use the pressure, as fast transcribed by

Yoshikawa: Good morning. Thank you for coming on Sunday morning. We were very shocked at the DPRK has launched themissile despite the warning coming from many corners of the world. And thisis a clear violation of the past Security Council resolutions,  whether you call it a satellite or what. Using their missile technology is a clear violation of the UN security council resolutions, and it came after, four weeks after the nuclear test. So we hope that today the Council will make ourselves very clear that we cannot condone the acts, the violation of the Security Council resolutions by DORK. And it went over Japan, it landed near the Philippines. This is a clear threat to the lives of many people.

Q: You must be frustrated with China.

A: China was for more dialogue, I think. What we need is no longer the dialogue, but using the pressure to make understood the DPRK.

Q: What do you expect today?
A: We will be asking for expeditious, adoption of the robust Security Council resolution.

  Inner City Press has put the DPRK position online on Scribd, here.

  What about UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon? Last time he met with his senior advisers -- all male -- then issued a statement. Then on February 5 he told a UNA-UK audience in London how important gender empowerment has been to him.

  If Ban is in fact running for President in South Korea, how will this help him? And any shadow over the US Super Bowl? Any (early) question in the GOP debate? We'll be following this.

Back on January 6 after North Korea announced it had tested a hydrogen bomb, at the UN a Security Council meeting was called for 11 am. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon read a statement at the UNSC stakeout at 10:30 am, taking no question as usual.

 After 1 pm, Security Council President for January Elbio Rosselli of Uruguay emerged and read out a Press Statement below. Japan's Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa spoke, and Inner City Press asked him of Ban's moves to visit DPRK. He replied that if such a trip emphasized UN resolutions including on human rights, it could be useful. Video here. But what WAS Ban's trip going to be about?

   Earlier, UNTV fed out B-roll of Ban meeting with his advisers -- Kim Won-soo and Jeff Feltman formerly of the US State Department, Vine here -- and Ban canceled a previously scheduled (also “no questions”) appearance that Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Accesscritiqued here.

Back on November 17, 2015 when Ri Hung Sik, Ambassador at-large of the Democratic People's Republic of Korean, held a press conference at the North Korean mission, he said that he had heard nothing, nothing at all, about UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visiting North Korea, which Yonhap ascribed to a senior UN source.

Even when asked a leading question about a hypothetical Ban trip, Ri Hung Sik said Ban's UN would have to improve its relations with DPRK. Inner City Press is putting the audio online here, and embedded below.

 Inner City Press ran back to the UN and asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, transcript here:

Inner City Press: here was just a press conference at the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) mission, and there their minister, Ri Hung Sik, asked about the Secretary-General's possible reported trip, said he's heard nothing about it at all and that there are many rumours on the internet.  He also said that this South Korean national security law that makes it illegal for South Korean citizens to speak positively of the DPRK… that's how he described it… should be looked at by the UN.  So I wanted to know, what is the Secretary-General's view of that law?  And if that's an accurate description, is he bound by it?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of the law.  As far as Ban Ki-moon, he is the Secretary-General of the United Nations and is doing his duty as such.

   But why did Team Ban play it so coy on Yonhap's report? Now late on November 17, the UN has issued this more specific denial:

"In response to questions asked about a report from Xinhua and the Korean Central News Agency stating that the Secretary-General would be travelling to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea next week, the Spokesman had the following to say: The Secretary-General will not be travelling to the DPRK next week. He will be in New York most of the week and then travel to Malta for the Commonwealth Summit. From there, he will go to directly to Paris to attend CoP21. The Secretary-General has repeatedly said that he is willing to play any constructive role, including traveling to the DPRK, in an effort to work for peace, stability and dialogue on the Korean Peninsula."

  Before Inner City Press left the DPRK mission on November 17, it asked Ri Hung Sik for his view of UN Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman and when or if UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid will visit North Korea.

  Of Darusman, Ri Hung Sik said he met him only once, and that it seems Darusman does not speak his own words, or think his own thoughts. Of Zeid, he said the discussion is of technical cooperation, but no date was given. Video here.

   During the press conference, there was no question, as at a prior DPRK press conference, about Donald Trump...