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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


Secretary-General's press encounter

New York, 11 October 2006

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I know you issued a printed statement following the North Korean action, but this is our first chance to see you in public, and I wondered if you could first give us your thoughts on the implications of it.

SG: I think what is important is that the Security Council has spoken with one voice, that the action of the North Korean government was unacceptable, and it complicates an already difficult security situation in the Korean Peninsula, and I suspect the Council will come together and take a firm action against North Korea. Discussions are going on, and I hope they will be able to come up with one voice, and decide on measures that should be taken.

Q: You participated in this process for ten years with the North and the South. Your successor, whom I know has not been officially confirmed yet, but it appears to be that he is the man. Should he be more personally involved? Would you advocate that? He says he wants to go there. Is that something that the Secretary-General of the UN, it would be time for something different in that situation?

SG: I think he has an advantage in the sense that he has been personally deeply involved with the issue already. He knows the culture and the region well. And he knows the key players involved. I think that should stand him in good stead. Whether he should go there directly and when will depend very much on the circumstances and that will be a question of judgment for him to make.

Q: Is Kim Jong-Il a major threat to the world? Or an irritant who should just be left there and his government while the people are starving, unfortunately?

SG: I think what is clear is that he has not paid attention to the will of the international community and all the appeals that have been made to him. And so, he has created a situation which is difficult, which we need to deal with, and I believe we need to engage him and deal with the issue and take the measures necessary.

Q: Quel est votre message pour Kim Jong-Il?

SG: Il doit travailler avec la communauté interationale. Evidemment, tout le monde est concerné par la proliferation nucléaire et ses voisins sont decidé d'éviter que la peninsule de Corée soit nucléarisee.

Q: Sir, would you agree at this stage where you are that again we are seeing issues of Security Council credibility here and that the world waits for an action and it seems that the Security Council is not yet decided?

SG: I am not sure we can jump to that conclusion yet. The Council is discussing this issue. These are complex issues, and I think it is right that they take their time and reflect and discuss amongst themselves, and come up with measures that will not only be effective but sustainable. And so I would not say that the Council's credibility is on the line because they have not come up within 24 hours with a decision, but I hope they will come up with measures that will be effective.

Q: How sensitive are those issues of weapons of mass destruction around the world? How sensitive, how important is it? In other parts of world maybe this is not a priority yet, while other nations, including here, push for it.

SG: I think it is important for the whole world. You are talking of weapons of mass destruction that can have impact around the world. It is not a Kalashnikov. A nuclear explosion and use of nuclear devices does have major implications for countries that may be directly targeted and the countries using them and countries far away. I need not remind you of how the world felt about the accident in Chernobyl, for example - how quickly the winds took it to California from Ukraine. And so it is something that should be of concern to all of us, regardless of whether our region is immediately involved or not.

Q: Sanctions. How effective are sanctions in general? Moving aside from North Korea; this always comes up at this time. Does 'one size fit all'? Is it an approach that the Council and the UN has to stop thinking of, or is it the only way to put pressure on despotic regimes?

SG: I think the Council itself has been very concerned about effective use of sanctions, and they have done quite a lot of thinking and studies about it. And we have heard about 'smart sanctions' and others. So they have tried to move away from 'one size fits all'. And they also recognize that sanctions can be a blunt instrument, so you have to be very careful as to how you apply the sanctions and what kind of sanctions can be used, and there are times when sanctions can be effective, but the Council must select from its toolbox the measures that are likely to be most effective, most effective in the sense of bringing pressure to bear on the party whose behaviour one wants to change.

Q: You had said that the Council needs to respond with a firm response, and I want to know what that means specifically as far as Chapter VII is concerned? And how that should play out?

SG: I think that is something that the Council is discussing intensely amongst themselves, and I really do not want to prejudge what they are likely to say nor put myself in the middle of their discussions at this stage.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the North Koreans today have said that imposing sanctions would be tantamount to a declaration of war. They are also raising the possibility of another nuclear test. The Japanese have already closed their ports. The South Koreans are talking about escalating their defenses. What would you urge be done to try and calm this situation, these jitters? And are we heading into a new Asian crisis?

SG: I would urge the North Korean authorities not to escalate the situation any further. We already have an extremely difficult situation, and that obviously the Council, as I said, is discussing this issue. I have also heard these rumours about a second test, but I am not sure what the facts are, and so I am basing myself on what has already happened. But I think what is important is that, at this stage, the Council, as I have said, speaks with one voice. It will have a greater impact on the North Koreans if they do.

Q: Should the United States have direct, bilateral talks with North Korea?

SG: I have always argued that we should talk to parties whose behaviour we want to change, whose behaviour we want to influence. And from that point of view I believe that the US and North Korea should talk. They did talk in the past. And I think, obviously we have the six-party talks and everyone is urging them to go back to the six-party talks and negotiate very seriously, and I hope the six-party talks can resume. So the talks are necessary. Whether it is done in the context of the six-party talks or separately, one must talk.

Q: So you think it may help to have bilateral, one-on-one, between the North Koreans and the United States?

SG: That is correct.

Q: On Iran – more weapons of mass destruction - are you afraid that this is going to impact on how we deal with Iran, how they deal with the Security Council? Or do you have any thought on how all of this started out of the 'Axis of Evil'? What are your thoughts now?

SG: Obviously these are all linked, and the parties watch each other. They are all waiting to see how we deal with the respective situations. I am sure the Iranians are also paying attention to what is happening on the Korean Peninsula, and what's happening here in New York in the Council. I can also assure you that the Council members are also very conscious of this, so hopefully in coming up with this situation, they will bear in mind the broader implication of any actions that they can take.

Thank you very much.

[off camera]

Q: Are you frightened, like the rest of the world? Or do you think it is going to be contained?

SG: It is a serious situation. It is a serious situation that we should tackle firmly, and we cannot play it down. I am pleased that the Council is fully seized, and they are all working very actively on it.