|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
on Visit to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
In their first visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in six years, senior United Nations political aides had called on Korean officials last week to return promptly to the six-party talks on eliminating nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula, B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said at a Headquarters news conference today.
“We were not there to negotiate on behalf of other people, and we wouldn’t try to do that,” Mr. Pascoe said. “But we did make it quite clear, both in the Secretary-General’s view and my own, that the talks needed to begin right away and without preconditions.” The Under-Secretary-General added that he and Kim Won-soon, Deputy Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General, had held “friendly, but frank” talks with President Kim Yong-nam, the Foreign Minister and the Deputy Foreign Minister.
Besides the six-party talks, he said, they had also discussed relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United Nations and neighbouring countries, as well as human rights, agricultural development and other concerns, with the aim of opening and sustaining a high-level dialogue with Korean officials as part of efforts to foster peace and stability in the region. While there were no plans for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit the country any time soon, the United Nations would indeed welcome a visit for talks at Headquarters by any official of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mr. Pascoe added.
During their trip, from 9 to 12 February, he said, the two officials had also met with the United Nations country team, its Resident Coordinator and staff of the six United Nations agencies and programmes operating in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They had witnessed the Organization’s efforts at the Pyongyang maternity hospital and visited the World Food Programme (WFP) factory, which produced fortified food for malnourished children. “They definitely need the assistance and were quite appreciative of UN efforts,” he said.
Mr. Pascoe went on to emphasize that United Nations support was vital for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where per capita official development assistance, excluding contributions from China, ranged from $2 to $4. That was probably the world’s lowest, as compared with $15 for Myanmar and $50 for Zimbabwe.
Asked about specific engagement with the country in the near future, the Under-Secretary-General said he hoped to set up a series of discussions in the next few months, adding that a couple of United Nations agencies planned visits there. He said he had not requested a meeting with Kim Jong-il, the country’s leader, during the mission.
Regarding the readiness of China and the Republic of Korea to return to the six-party talks, he said “both countries are game to engage”, as was the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but their challenge was agreeing on how and where to start effective negotiations.
* *** *For information media • not an official record