Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at United Nations Headquarters

24 May 2010
SG/SM/12910

Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at United Nations Headquarters

24 May 2010
Secretary-General
SG/SM/12910
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at United Nations Headquarters

 

Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s press conference held in New York today, 24 May:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  It is a great pleasure to see you.

As you know, I returned from Istanbul yesterday afternoon, where I attended the conference on Somalia and had productive bilateral meetings with the Turkish leadership and other world leaders.

This was an important event at a crucial time for Somalia.

The conference expressed its full support for President Sheikh Sharif [Sheikh] Ahmed and his Government’s efforts to implement the Djibouti Agreements and keep the peace process on track.

The Istanbul Declaration sent a clear threefold message.

First, the United Nations will not stand by and watch Somalia struggle alone.

Second, the Transitional Federal Government has to do its part and tackle the hard issues of security and governance.

Third, if we do not tackle the basic causes onshore we will never be able to stop piracy offshore.  This entails more training and funding of Somali security forces, and it involves economic reconstruction to break the cycle of despair.

Yesterday’s attack on the presidential palace underscores both the urgency and the scale of the challenge.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The coming weeks will be very busy for all of us.

Here at Headquarters, the NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] review conference concludes on Friday.

As expected, there have been divergent views.  Yet the will to succeed has been clear.  Many constructive proposals have been put on the table covering all three NPT pillars.  Those are disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

But now we have reached a crucial stage.  It is time for an agreement.

I urge delegations to be pragmatic, to abandon rhetoric and to look beyond narrow national interest.  There is too much at stake for the conference to end in failure, as it did last time.

The world is watching.  People want a safer world — a world free of nuclear weapons, a world in which they don’t have to worry about nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

Let me now turn to other topics very much news.

First, the sinking of a Republic of Korea naval ship.

The evidence laid out in the joint international investigation report is overwhelming and deeply troubling.  I fully share the widespread condemnation of the incident.

It is particularly deplorable that the incident took place at a time when the six-party talks and international efforts towards a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula remain stalled.  Such an unacceptable act by the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] runs counter to international efforts to promote peace and stability in the region.

I listened carefully to the announcement made by Republic of Korea President Lee [Myung-bak] last night.  Pursuant to his call for the Security Council to address the matter, close consultations are expected to take place among key members of the Council.  I am confident that the Council, in fulfilling its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, will take measures appropriate to the gravity of the situation.

This incident is a stark reminder of the urgency of securing peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.  I do hope that the Council’s prompt action will also contribute to the early resumption of the six-party talks to address nuclear issues and other outstanding concerns.

Finally, given the severity of the humanitarian situation in the DPRK, the United Nations will continue its life-supporting work for those in dire need.  In this regard, I commend the announcement by President Lee that the Republic of Korea Government will continue humanitarian assistance to vulnerable children.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will continue to closely follow developments.

Concerning Iran.

In Istanbul, I told Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan of Turkey, that I welcomed Turkey’s diplomatic efforts to help resolve international tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme, undertaken in tandem with Brazil.  Last week I spoke by phone with Brazil’s Foreign Minister, and I will meet President [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] in person later this week in Rio de Janeiro.

As you know, today Iran handed a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  The proposal will now be assessed by the IAEA and other concerned parties.  This morning, I had telephone discussions with Mr. [Yukiya] Amano, Director General of the IAEA.  If accepted and implemented, it could serve as an important confidence-building measure and open the door for a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.

I have stated repeatedly that Iran should show greater transparency about its nuclear programme.  Let me stress once again the importance of Iran’s full cooperation with the IAEA and full compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Looking ahead, I have a month of heavy travelling.

I will be in Brazil later this week for the Third Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations.

Support for the Alliance keeps growing.  The number of countries now exceeds 100.  The United States just became the latest to join.  Such bridge-building work — across cultures, religions and traditions — is critical to so many of our global challenges.

From there I go to Malawi, where I will address parliament and meet with President Bingu Wa Mutharika, the current President of the African Union.

I will also visit a Millennium Village — a case study in a basic truth about the Millennium Development Goals:  Where we try, we succeed.  When we don’t try, we fail.

On 31 May, in Kampala, Uganda, I will convene the first review conference of the International Criminal Court.

We have come a long way.  A decade ago, few would have believed that the International Criminal Court would now be fully operational, investigating and trying perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity across a growing geography of countries.

The Kampala review conference is an important opportunity, not only to take stock of our progress, but to strengthen our collective determination that international crimes cannot go unpunished.

How else are we to deter them in the future?  The era of impunity must end.  We are entering a new age of accountability.

I will end my trip with the Africa-France Summit in Nice, at President [Nicholas] Sarkozy’s invitation.  I plan to use the occasion to meet with many African leaders and take part in an important session on climate change and development.

Later in June, I will return to Africa twice more.

First, I will travel to South Africa to discuss the Millennium Development Goals and enlist support for the September Summit.  But of course my trip coincides with the opening of the World Cup — a fabulous tribute to Africa’s prowess and potential.

From there I will visit Burundi, as well as several West-African countries where the United Nations has wide-ranging activities: Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin and Sierra Leone.

At the end of June, I will visit Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. MONUC [the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is at a crucial stage of its work, and I want to personally engage with the country’s leaders on the important matters at stake.

Thank you very much.  I will be happy to answer some of your questions.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), welcome to this press conference.  And we see that you have a very busy schedule travelling in June, but my question is, do you consider urgent to stop one of these days as soon as possible in Tehran and Pyongyang?

Secretary-General:  Which one?  Stop where?

Question:  In Tehran and Pyongyang.  If you consider it urgent to do some extra stop on your travelling.

Secretary-General:  Well, whether I am here or somewhere else, even while travelling, I always keep my attention and my eyes on the current issues.  You know that I am always assisted by our senior advisers who take a very close look on the development of the situation.  And of course, the situation on the Korean peninsula involving this naval ship sinking by [a] DPRK torpedo, and also the Iranian nuclear issue, they are top on my agenda.  I will, you know, pay due attention on them.  Thank you very much.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, the UN Dispute Tribunal is almost a year old, and now there is a body of decisions from the judges that suggests that your office and your lawyers are not really hoping that it succeeds; that by refusing to allow senior officials to testify, by refusing to supply documents and in general not cooperating with what the judges are saying, that it is unable to do its work as an independent judicial body.  Do you consider those tribunals a challenge to your authority?

Secretary-General:  I think there is some misunderstandings on the position of the United Nations.  This is a very important institution, as a part of reform.  We have established the Dispute Tribunal and Appeals Tribunal as a way of allowing better, structured channels of communication for those staff who may have complaints or something to appeal.  That I fully respect the systems and when I had the ceremony with the appointed judges, we have a fully shared common commitment to work together.  And, in fact, there have been many cases already filed.  And the judges have been working on all these cases.  Of course, sometimes there may be some cases of decisions which are not totally sometimes in line with what the administration, I mean, the Secretariat have been doing.  But we will try to respect all the decisions.  But, at the same time, we hope that these tribunals and system should not be abused by some people, you know, who really try to raise all the issues.  And there is a serious backlog and a heavy burden on the part of these issues.  And there are some issues for difference of opinions between the Secretariat and the judgement.  Then we’re trying to resolve all these issues and try to explain the real, real facts of our administration’s… There are many areas where the Secretary-General, myself, or senior advisers, have their authority and their prerogative to take administrative matters.  Sometimes this kind of administrative matters which are normally taken in any areas, any Government, any institutions; sometimes they become easily the subject of judicial dispute.  Therefore, I think that there needs to be mutual respect.  And also, I would like to urge all those on the staff who may have complaints, first try to resort to the proper channel of administratively resolving these issues before just trying to raise these issues all the time to the Dispute and Appeals Tribunals.

Question:  What’s an example about this you said it was an [inaudible] abuse?

Secretary-General:  You know, I do not have any special specific cases, but I think the Legal Counsel has been very seriously engaging in dialogue with the judges and the Tribunal judges.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, you said that the swap deal negotiated by Brazil and Turkey could serve as a confidence-building measure.  But the members of the P-5 don’t seem to have much confidence in it.  Have you had any discussions with them?  What are you saying to them — members of the P-5 — on Iran, and specifically would you call for a pause before they move forward with the sanctions resolution?

Secretary-General:  I am not in a position to say any definitive ideas how this matter should be addressed.  Of course, you know, I had a long talk with the [IAEA] Director General, [Yukiya] Amano, this morning, and I have had very serious talks, exchange of views, with Brazil and the Turkish leadership and other members of the United Nations.  Now, the question seems to be still at the heart of this problem, there clearly is a lack of confidence and trust of each other.  What I said repeatedly is that I appreciated and I welcomed these diplomatic initiatives, the package deal, which could be used as a very positive step towards a negotiated settlement of this issue, if this is followed by further engagement of the IAEA and also the international community.  That is a very important part.  Then, how to realize the permanent resolution of this issue.  There is clearly a difference of position and difference of approach.  Where we have confidence-building area and permanent resolution of this issue, then how to strike a balance between all these; that will be, that will require, sometimes political will and very professional and technical review of this package deal, and also some flexibility on this.  But I am not here at this time to make anything definitive.  That, you know, they will have to discuss.

Question:  I have two questions about the South Korean sinking incident.  One question is, what’s your idea about the necessity of the additional sanction against North Korea?  China seems to oppose it.  This is the first one, the second is, according to your explanation, the UN will continue humanitarian aid to North Korea, but why do you think it is necessary for UN-related organizations to keep humanitarian aid, in spite of the incident?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  For the issue on how this will be dealt with by the Security Council; that I would like to leave to the members of the Security Council.  The Korean President had said yesterday that they will bring this matter to the Security Council.  That is their decision, and I understand that, already, very active consultations have been taking place among key members of the Security Council.  Then I leave it to the members of the Security Council.  But, as I said, I do hope that the Security Council, fulfilling their responsibility to maintain international peace and security, will take the necessary measures appropriate to the gravity and seriousness of this issue, for peace and stability, not only in the Korean peninsula, it has much broader implications for the regional, and global even, security and peace.

On the humanitarian assistance, this is the basic position of the United Nations — that regardless of these situations, political or other considerations, we need to provide humanitarian assistance to, particularly, the most vulnerable group of people, like children and young girls, who are malnourished.  They are the leaders of our future generation, and they should be given proper nutrition and support.  This has a much more serious implication when they are severely malnourished.  This may have very negative consequences for future generations.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, in your opening remarks you said you were hoping that the Security Council’s action will lead to the resumption of the six-party talks.  At the same time, you’ve just said that you hope the Security Council will take the proper measures that are befitting to this serious situation.  Don’t you think any rebuke or punitive measures taken by the Security Council will actually not help in the resumption of the six-party talks?  And also, [United States] President [Barack] Obama has given instructions to [inaudible] military to coordinate with the South Korean military in readiness of any aggression by North Korea.  On the other side, there’s very strong rhetoric from the North Korean leadership.  How worried are you?  How confident are you that a flash point will not take place leading to a war between the two countries?

Secretary-General:  I can fully understand the current situation, and the frustrations and anger felt by South Korean people and all peace-loving people around the world.  You have seen such widespread condemnation from many countries around the world, and the evidence, the facts, lead out by this joint international investigation team were very compelling and overwhelming.

That is very troubling, as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and also as one of the citizens of Korea.  You can feel how, you know, my feeling.  But, I’m now speaking as Secretary-General of the United Nations.  I try to be very objective and fair, reasonable, in addressing all these issues, as I have been doing during the last three and a half years, in dealing with all the issues.  That’s what I have stated at this time.  My hope, my sincere hope, is that this will be dealt with by the Security Council, and they should take necessary measures on this matter.  And that will be, again, a good way to let the... any party to know that resumption of six-party talks will eventually lead to, in addition to implementing this joint statement adopted by the six parties, also create a politically very conducive atmosphere for the eventual furthering of exchanges and cooperation.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, a quick follow-up on North Korea.  How important a role do you think China should play as a traditional ally of North Korea?  What kind of message would you like to send to China?  And another question on human rights, you said you were going to travel to Malawi.  Do you intend to raise the issue of human rights, especially of homosexuals, in light of the fact that a couple of homosexuals were sentenced to 14 years in prison last week for allegedly violating “the laws of nature”?  Is that a topic that you plan to raise with the President of Malawi?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  On, again, the first question on the Korean peninsula issue, I think I have already stated my position.  I do not want to give more in detail on this.  As you know, as Secretary-General, who happens to come from the Republic of Korea, then I do not want to create any misperceptions.  I want to be very fair.  I want to do the job of Secretary-General of the United Nations.  I have been personally very much troubled by what had happened there.  I hope you’ll understand, therefore, I would like to limit my, as much as I can, my answers or involvement in this case.

On the second question, as a matter of principle, any harassment or discrimination or violence and other forms of human rights violations committed against persons on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity must be condemned.  Therefore, I would urge again that countries must show moral and political courage in combating discrimination in all its forms.  As you know, the Human Rights Committee has concluded that the criminalization of sexual acts between consenting adults is a breach of the right to privacy and freedom from discrimination.  And the Committee on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights has placed the sexual orientation and gender identity within the prohibited grounds of discrimination — that’s my answer.

Question:  Secretary-General, you said that, back to the Iran question, you said if accepted and implemented —and you’re referring to the letter by Iran to the IAEA — how long is it from what you have understood from Amman or everybody else you spoke to, that implementation process, how long would it take?  I mean, would it automatically push the June deadline, or the June expectation of a vote on the sanctions in the Security Council only because of a process of implementation?  And the second part, could you explain what is it that you mean by that balance to be struck between confidence-building measures and permanent?  Explain, if you don’t mind, if you are personally willing to play a role in that.  And as a follow-up to Gianpaolo’s question, would you be willing to go to Tehran, since everybody else is going?  And if it may be, if it is, the way to do something about it, moving forward?

Secretary-General:  Now, I think you might have already heard what the Spokesperson of the IAEA announced.  I was told that the IAEA would have some announcement on all these procedural issues.  He told me that he had immediately conveyed this official notification from Iran to the concerned parties — that means the Vienna Group, members of the Vienna Group — for their assessment and for their response.  I suspect that it may take some days for them to come back to the IAEA.  That’s one procedure we still have to wait.  In the meantime, I also understand that members of the Security Council are actively consulting among themselves what kind of measures, including sanction measures, should be taken.  That is again what they are doing.

On what’s the balance between confidence-building and permanent resolution of this issue.  I think one step has already been taken.  Everybody, a lot of parties, have taken initiative, including the P-5 + 1.  They have been engaging in negotiations with the Iranians.  That was part of the confidence-building measures.  The Turkish and Brazilians have taken the initiative; that’s part of confidence-building measures.  And the Iranians, they have proposed their own proposals, like committing 1,020 kilograms of low-grade uranium for eventual 20 per cent purity uranium.  That, they showed as part of their confidence-building measures.  But now, clearly, as I said, at the heart of this programme, there is lack of confidence, because of the announcement by Iran that they would continue, again, their own enrichment processing of 20 per cent purity uranium.  That has created serious concern.  That has given much concern to the international community, and I myself have expressed my concern on that particular point.  Then, how to address all these detailed issues will have to be left to the hands of, again, continuing consultation or negotiations.  For me, as the Secretary-General, when there is clearly some framework of negotiation or mediation, then I’d better leave it to that.  For example, when there is the six-party talks, it is better that the parties of the six- party talks discuss the matter.  When there is some SADC [Southern African Development Community] or African Union taking charge of certain regional contributions, we always try to facilitate and create the political atmosphere conducive to the acceleration of these negotiations.

Question:  It has been announced that you are going to send your two top UN officials in Sudan to attend the inauguration of the President.  As we understood it in the past, the UN policy was to avoid ceremonial meetings with people wanted by the ICC.  So did the UN policy on this change?  Can you explain to us what is the new policy?  And what do you say to the charge that it sends the wrong signal to the victims?

Secretary-General:  As you know, we have two missions — UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] and UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur].  They are very important peacekeeping missions in Sudan.  They are mandated by the Security Council to support the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and further efforts towards peace in Darfur.

These are very important missions, and for operational purposes, the SRSGs [Special Representatives of the Secretary-General] in UNMIS and UNAMID have been meeting with Sudanese Government officials. This is what they have been doing, and they will have to continue to do.  We have a critical mission, for the peace and stability of this, and including the implementation of the CPA, which will have very, very important consequences in next July’s referendum.  This is not more than that.  What they are doing is not more than that, they are doing exactly within the framework of their mandate.

Question:  Can you tell us though, are you saying that they need to have contacts for operational reasons, which is fine, it’s been done in the past.  But this is a ceremonial meeting — it’s not an operational, work-related meeting, so what is the policy towards people that are wanted by the ICC?  Can you meet with them the same way you would do with any other official?

Secretary-General:  You may say that it is ceremonial, but it is part of a very important political event for the Sudanese people.  They have elected President [Omer Al-]Bashir as their President.  You cannot say this is only ceremonial, nothing to do with political implications.  They are there, mandated by the Security Council, and appointed by me, and for UNAMID, appointed jointly by me and the African Union — he [Mr. Gambari] is a Joint Special Representative.  So I think this should be regarded as part of their very serious official critical mission, not more than that.

Question:  Getting back to this Turkish-Brazilian initiative on Iran, Sir, do you not feel that the major effect of that initiative has been to galvanize the Security Council into unanimity and do you not feel that the overriding danger here is the threat of an Iranian finger on the nuclear trigger?

Secretary-General:  The international community has been expressing serious concern about the Iranian nuclear development programme, because they have not been able to prove that their programme is not military in dimension, and their programme is purely and exclusively for peaceful purposes.  That is their responsibility to prove.  That is what I said — the onus is on them. 

Negotiations are going on; therefore, I would urge again that the parties concerned, particularly the E-3 + 3 and Iran, should continue their negotiations for a peaceful resolution of this issue, keeping in consideration the various proposals and initiatives taken so far, including the Turkish and Brazilian initiative.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, later today you will be meeting with the Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka [Mr. G.L. Peiris].  Eighty days ago, you said that you would be creating a panel of experts to advise you about possible war crimes in Sri Lanka, but you still haven’t done it.  There has been an ICG [International Crisis Group] report that said that the UN’s own role in possible war crimes should be investigated.  I would like to know, what is your reason for the delay?  Is it attributable to pressure from the Government, or from the NAM [Non-Aligned Movement] letter that you received?  What are you going to tell the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka?  And what do you say to ICG’s claim that the UN itself in some sense abetted war crimes including by pulling out of Kilinochi, by not pushing for a ceasefire, by funding internment camps, and even encouraging surrenders that led to summary executions?  What is the response of the UN to those charges?

Secretary-General:  First of all, on the last part of your question, I totally reject all that kind of allegations.  It is not because of pressure from Sri Lanka.  I am still working on the establishment of a group of experts who will advise me based on international standards and experiences on implementation of the commitment the Government made in the area of human rights accountability. 

As you know, the Sri Lankan Government has announced the establishment of their own commission.  The group of experts will have to advise me on the basic characters and the role of this commission.  This is what I have in my mind.  With my meeting with the new Foreign Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka, I will again urge them to do three things.  First of all, continue to improve the conditions of the internally displaced persons, expedite relocation and reintegration of these people.  On that, I think they have made some progress.  Then again, promote national reconciliation, reaching out to a different group of parties and people for national reconciliation.  Thirdly, the accountability process as I have been discussing with President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa, as soon as possible.

Question:  Have you read the International Crisis Group’s report?  It says very clearly — I am not saying you have to agree with it — I just want to make sure when you are rejecting it — do you reject that report totally?  And would your panel have any jurisdiction to investigate the UN itself as a [inaudible]?

Secretary-General:  You mean I rejected it?  I don’t know if I have ever said that I rejected it.  I don’t remember that we have said that.  We appreciate all these International Crisis Group’s efforts, and we have seen many recommendations in their reports.  We will closely coordinate whatever recommendations and advice we may be able to take — we will always take into consideration.

Question:  Thank you, Secretary-General.  You went to Turkey and you discussed the matter of the Middle East.  On Wednesday, [Lebanese] Prime Minister [Saad] Hariri will be here to preside over the Security Council.  I hope, I think you will be meeting with him?  How concerned are you about the tensions in southern Lebanon, about the Hizbullah armament?  And also about the report on Syria-Hizbullah wall in eastern Lebanon?

Secretary-General:  It will be a very good opportunity for me to meet again with Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon on Wednesday, the 26th.  I am looking forward to that.  I am also concerned about this continuing political and security situation in Lebanon, including this illegal arms transfer into Lebanon.  This is clearly a violation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).  This must be fully implemented and respected.

During my stay in Istanbul, I also had an opportunity of discussing this matter with the Turkish leadership, and I also discussed the possibility of a Turkish role in promoting proximity talks between Israel and Syria, which they did in 2008.

We sincerely hope that with the national Government formed, and the national dialogue which is initiated by President [Michel] Sleiman, and with the new Prime Minister, new leadership, and with the ongoing proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, we hope that the situation will improve in Lebanon.  I will discuss this matter in--depth with Prime Minister Hariri.

Question:  [inaudible] building a massive wall in Lebanon?

Secretary-General:  I need to find out more on this.

Question:  Secretary-General, as you know, this week we are hitting a new milestone in the renovation of the building by closing the Secretariat Building.  Reviewing the [Capital] Master Plan (CMP), I was surprised that given your commitment to the environment, there is not much done in terms of making the building particularly environmentally friendly.  The 50 per cent cut of energy is going to be mostly by updating the appliances and the electrical system.  I was wondering if you are having some problems manifesting your environmentalist vision with your management staff since there are other issues that have been problematic like removing the bike tracks, and not even doing anything to complete the East River bike lanes with the city.  Are you finding any problem manifesting your environmentalist vision in this bureaucratic institution?

Secretary-General:  It may be too early to make that kind of evaluation or judgment about our plan to make this CMP renovation process “green”.  I made my commitment to the Member States and to the international community, when they approved my proposal, that we will make this UN building the greenest building.  We will set an example for other international community members.  That is our commitment that is continuing.  We will be able to cut the energy needs by I think, 50 to 60 per cent, when we complete this.  Then we will be able to use solar energy for our air conditioning and heating purposes.  That is a new, cutting-edge technology which we are going to introduce in this building.

I know there will be some inconvenience for all our staff and Member States, and from time to time we may listen to that kind of judgement.  We need not to have any prejudgment before this construction is complete.

Question:  [inaudible] bike lane on the East River that is cut because of the UN?

Secretary-General:  That, I will have Mr. [Michael] Adlerstein, the CMP project manager, explain to you in more detail.

Question:  Mr. SG, I just wanted to go back to some remarks you made about the NPT Conference in the beginning.  The Guardian published today an article saying that Israel sold, or offered to sell nuclear technology to South Africa back in 1975, and this is other evidence that Israel does possess and it is not only an allegation.  I was wondering if you have any reaction to this report, and whether the final declaration by the NPT should reflect that Israel should be joining the NPT and opening its installations for international inspection?  Thank you, Sir.

Secretary-General:  The universality of this NPT membership is a very important issue.  During my remarks to the opening of the NPT review conference, I made it as one of very key issues.  The negotiation, as I said, has been going on, and it started with a quite positive mood.  But I am concerned that the negotiation has not been moving much, including on these universality issues, and on the nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. There are some divergent views among the State Parties.  Therefore, I am going to engage with the President of this Conference, and I will try to do what I can, as much as I can. 

My message is quite clear, that we must not repeat the failure which we [had] in 2005.  We must look beyond national interest.  We need to look for the aspiration of the international community that we must realize a world free of nuclear weapons.

Question:  Mr. Secretary, I know you said you can’t really get involved — you are the Secretary-General — on the North Korea issue, but considering your history there — it’s where you are from — I wonder if you could move beyond the words that many Secretaries-General use after this type of action.  You could help people to understand why this issue is much more important, perhaps, than the years of other skirmishes and hostilities people have heard about from the [Korean] peninsula.  As you heard the names of the sailors who were killed read out, what is the impact on a country such as South Korea?  Why is this issue a little bit more particularly urgent or important for the world than what they have seen and heard for decades here?

Secretary-General:  Unfortunately, there have been several such provocations during the last four or five decades.  You may remember all these incidents where North Korea has made all these provocations.  This is one of the most serious, I believe, provocations in recent days.  When there was a lot going on in exchanges and cooperation between South and North Korea.  Even though, despite these very political difficulties.  There was a high expectation in the international community that through a joint statement of the six-party talks, then people saw some hope that Korea could be denuclearized.  I myself participated as one of the negotiators in drawing up a joint declaration for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in 1991 and 1992.  I myself served as Vice‑Chairman of the Joint Nuclear Control Commission between South and North Korea.   Therefore, I have a very strong attachment and even a sense of responsibility.  Now, serving as Secretary-General, this is most troubling for me to see what is happening in the Korean peninsula — that’s my motherland.  Therefore, I really hope that, first of all, we should not repeat this kind of recurrence of these kinds of things.  Therefore, there must be some major step to be taken.  The evidence is quite compelling.  There is no controversy.  Therefore it is the responsibility of the international community to address this issue properly, consistent with the Charter of the United Nations.  This is what I do hope.

Thank you very much.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.