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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press conference at Japan's National Press Club

Tokyo, Japan, 8 July 2012

SG: Mata nihon ni korareta koto wo taihen ureshiku omoimasu.
[It is a pleasure to be here in Japan once again.]

This is my sixth visit to Japan as Secretary-General of the United Nations and this is my second opportunity and honour to have a press conference here in the JNPC (Japan National Press Club). Thank you for taking time on Sunday afternoon. I know this is an extraordinary privilege and honour to have this opportunity on a Sunday.

I am also pleased to have this chance to meet the Japanese press early in my second term. You may remember that in 2008 that was my first visit to Japan [as Secretary-General] and I met you at that time I am very pleased to visit Japan again in the early stage of my second term.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to Prime Minister Noda, Foreign Minister Gemba, and the Government and people of Japan for their dynamic role in the United Nations.

This leadership is all the more impressive during these times of global economic uncertainty and given the considerable challenges that Japan itself has faced.

The resilience of Japan in the wake of last year’s disasters continues to inspire.  Japan has actively shared its lessons learned, to the great benefit of the international community in the areas of nuclear safety and security.

Hosting today’s conference on Afghanistan is further testament to Japan’s dedication to multilateralism and the global common good.

Afghanistan has made important progress, but the gains are fragile. The United Nations will continue to stand with the people of Afghanistan as they take greater control over their own security and development.

Japan is also making important contributions in South Sudan and Haiti, where its military engineering personnel bring invaluable skills to our peacekeeping operations.  In the 20 years since Japan began participating in UN peacekeeping, the country has compiled a solid track record, and I hope these contributions will continue and grow.

In Myanmar, Japan’s recent decision to resume bilateral aid and write off the country’s debt will help keep the historic changes moving in the right direction.  Responsible investments by Japanese companies can also advance the country’s development and integration with the global economy.

Of course, Japan’s role extends well beyond these challenges.  From disarmament to disaster risk reduction, from peacebuilding to conflict prevention, from poverty reduction to human security, Japan continues to show great commitment and leadership.

Japan is a leader on sustainable development, and was at the heart of the recent success at the Rio+20 summit.

Rio was a major step forward.

It strengthened political commitment to sustainable development.

It agreed to launch a process to establish universal sustainable development goals, SDGs, that will build on the Millennium Development Goals and be an integral part of the post-2015 development framework.

Rio saw the announcement of more than 700 commitments -- on energy, transport, hunger, education and much else -- that have the power to transform our societies for the better.

Many Japanese companies attended the conference, and I will look to them for leadership, in particular on the green economy and sustainable energy for all.

With respect to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the situation remains grave. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula remain high. The humanitarian situation in the DPRK is alarming, especially the malnutrition rates of women and children.  I again express my appreciation for the efforts of the Japanese Government to prevent any further escalation of tensions in the region, and I also agree on the importance of resolving the abduction issue.

Finally, let me say a few words about the situation in Syria.

The situation has deteriorated significantly, and has become more militarized.  Appalling violations of human rights continue to take place.  The killings and violence seem to have taken on a very worrying sectarian character.  At least 1.5 million people are now in need of urgent humanitarian aid.

It is crucial for the Security Council and the Action Group to pressure the parties to prevent any further escalation of the conflict and advance the prospects of a political transition.


The international community needs to unite behind Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy.

The Government of Syria and all parties on the ground must recommit to the six-point plan in its entirety.

Should the parties continue to flout Security Council resolutions, the Council will have to take the necessary collective action.

As for UN Supervision Mission, this was playing an invaluable role in reporting objectively on events on the ground until it was compelled to suspend its operational activities because of the rising violence and threats to its personnel.

I have just reported to the Security Council on the Mission’s posture and role, and I encourage the Council to maintain a Mission presence capable of adapting to opportunities that may arise should the parties move towards a political solution.

The Syrian people and the region cannot afford more atrocities, suffering and chaos. President Assad must understand that things cannot continue as they are. Fundamental change is needed.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I look forward to Japan’s continued engagement across the UN agenda.

Japan is the second largest contributor of resources to the Organization.  I am determined to ensure that those hard-earned taxpayers’ funds are being used wisely, especially at a time of financial constraint for our Member States.  We continue to streamline and modernize the Organization.   My vision is of an efficient and responsive United Nations, delivering vital services to the world’s people and accountable to them for results.

With the support of Member States like Japan, I am confident we can succeed.

Thank you for your attention and now I would be happy to take your questions.

Q: Well, Mr. Secretary-General, thank you so much for giving the press this opportunity today.  You have come here to attend the Conference on Afghanistan this time in Tokyo, so let me ask you something about the Afghanistan issue.  Well, you know that Japan, too, has contributed financially quite a lot to Afghanistan. Pledges have been made as a donor country, looking at the Afghanistan situation; there is political corruption out there, inefficiency out there, in an outright form.  So as we observe them we have to look into the financial resources we are giving to them making sure they are being spent wisely and efficiently for the benefit of people of Afghanistan, as helping them to transition to a civilian government.  So in that sense, as the Secretary-General at the UN, I would like to ask you, how are you going to supervise them to see that financial resources are wisely spent?  And also, what is your plan at the UN for assisting Afghanistan in the future?  Thank you.

SG: First of all, I would like to thank and highly commend the leadership and commitment of Japan.  It was here in Tokyo in 2002, when the international community, under the initiative of Japan, began reconstructing Afghanistan. After ten years, through many initiatives, now finally we are meeting here.  Now I understand there are not any other major international conferences scheduled after 2014.  In that regard, Japan has been making great contribution for common prosperity and security and humanity in Afghanistan, which has great regional implications.  I understand that there are concerns from the donor communities about this good governance. This has been, in fact, one of the most important issues, which the international community has been addressing.  With ISAF, International Security Assistant Forces, withdrawing by the end of 2014, it would be very important that the international community should support Afghanistan and people so that they would be able to stand on their own, in terms of their political stability, social economic development and human rights.  That is what the international community has been doing and that is what we are doing today in Tokyo.  I am encouraged that member states are willing to mobilize 16 billion dollars for the coming three years or four years until 2016 and Japan is providing quite a big share of this 16 billion dollars and I really appreciate that.

I have been making this point very clear that while the international community is ready to support Afghanistan, the Afghan government should make sure that all this money and investment should be used wisely to the purpose of their support.  In that regard, the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework is very much appreciated and it is wholeheartedly supported by member states participating in this conference today, including President Karzai.  And let us work hard to help these fragile institutions so that they can be fully integrated into this international community.  And they have suffered too much and too long and it’s time for us to help them, so thank you.

Q: Well, looking at the Southeast Asian countries, I think the highest item of interest among them is China.  I look at the military threat rising in China, their territorial claim, which is ever more expanding nowadays, and everyone here is very much worried about it.  So Mr. Secretary-General, how would you assess this situation yourself and also as UN.  Do you have any plan to respond to this kind of developments?  Thank you.

SG: China is certainly one of the important players.  Their economic development has now become number two in the world and they have been actively engaging in world affairs.  I know that there are certain territorial disputes in this part of the world, South China Seas, I sincerely hope that all these territorial disputes should be resolved through diplomatic negotiations and dialogue.  It will be very important, first of all, not to raise the level of tension, rhetorics, but to resort to dialogue and negotiations.  This is what the United Nations really asks the parties concerned.  Thank you very much.

Q: Thank you very much.  With regard to Afghanistan, I have a further question.  Looking at the ISAF, ISAF is going to be withdrawn and power will be delegated.  But worsening of the security on the ground is worried about and also economic deterioration is also worried about, so as UN, what is the role that the UN is trying to take on.  Do you have any plan for the UN’s role after the withdrawal of the ISAF?  Of course, each country has been assisting Afghanistan through the units but now that they are going to withdraw, ever more the role of the UN will become important.  So what would that be?  And also, in having UN activities, security situation is the most worrisome item so who would defend UN forces for you? Because I see that Afghanistan’s local unit had attacked UN forces lately on the ground in Afghanistan.  So do you think you are confident enough to let the security to be protected fully by the local safety and security unit in Afghanistan and let you carry out the activities there?

SG: The United Nations has been engaged in Afghanistan many decades, long before even this attention on Afghanistan has been given by the international community. And even after withdrawal of ISAF by 2014, UN will continue to engage in longer term.  I have been urging member states that their support for Afghanistan should not be on a temporary or short-term measures.  They should be based on medium and longer term.  This morning, in my speech to the member states, I have said that the United Nations will continue to support and work together with Afghanistan, despite our limited financial resources in terms and our security concerns.  The United Nations, first of all, will continue to work together with the Afghan government in supporting of political stability through providing technical expert level support in establishing rule of law, establishing good governance, and particularly in a form of electoral process.  I discussed this method this afternoon with President Karzai, that as Afghanistan is looking forward to having presidential election in 2014, we have already begun discussing how we can help Afghanistan, Afghanistan-led presidential election in such a credible and democratic and objective manner.  This will be a huge challenge because it will be almost for the first time, that Afghanistan will conduct presidential elections on their own.  It will also help to promote human rights, and particularly those marginalized group of people, women and girls.  We will help them to realize these Millennium Development Goals, particularly access to primary and secondary education.  The United Nations has been working together with the Afghan government in their own efforts to promote national reconciliation.  All this political stability or democracy cannot be won only on the battlefield.  They have to promote  national reconciliation which will help create a favourable atmosphere so that democracy and their social economic development and political stability can take place firmly.  Those are three areas where the United Nations will continue to work with the Afghan government.

Q: I have a question about Syria.  So last year in March the Libyan Colonel Gaddafi led government was said that they were not any longer protecting their national people and based on that judgment, the international community stood up and came up with a suitable response.  But what about the Assad government led in Syria?  They also seem that they are not any longer fulfilling their role of protecting their public, so what would be the next step that the UN can take under these circumstances?

SG: At the time of crisis in Libya, the international community was wholeheartedly united based upon the recommendation of the League of Arab States.  The Security Council had taken very swift and decisive actions by adopting the Security Council Resolution 1973, establishing no-fly zones and allowing all available resources.  That is why the international community was able to help the Libyan people to realize their aspirations, genuine and legitimate aspirations to build a democratic and free society of their own.  In the case of the situation in Syria, except this establishment of the resolutions which allowed the deployment of monitoring teams in Syria through Security Council resolution 2042 and 2043, the Security Council has not been able to take some united stance in the face of this intolerable and unacceptable situation where gross violation of human rights have been committed.  More than 15,000 people, according to informal information and unofficial statistics, information have been killed already.  And this violence has taken place by both sides, by Syrian government forces and opposition forces.  But the violence was started first by the government forces.  And, mostly civilian people were killed.  So we have to stop this violence.  That is why the six-point plan by Kofi Annan was supported and endorsed by the Security Council.  And we have to implement this Security Council resolution as well as the six-point plan.  It has already been sixteen months, and so many people have already been killed, Syrian people have suffered too long, too much.  And the international community must do all, taking all the available tools, under the authority of the Security Council, under the Charter provisions of the United Nations.  I am deeply troubled by the inability of the international community where so many people have been killed.  That is why I have made recommendations to the Security Council last Friday.  The main points of my recommendation is that, under such very dangerous circumstances, our peacekeepers and monitoring team are not able to discharge their missions effectively.  Therefore, if by reserving this operational flexibility, if we can pay more attention on this political transition, as was recommended by the Action Group which was held in Geneva about ten days ago, I sincerely hope that the member states of the United Nations Security Council will look into this issue more seriously, filling, sharing the common responsibility by taking collective action as soon as possible.

Q: Thank you. We recently reported the fact that China had exported its military vehicles or transporters, electors, launchers to the DPRK (Democratic Republic of Korea) in August last year.  The Government of Japan, the US and the ROK (Republic of Korea), pointed out it will be a violation of the UN Security Council resolution 1874.  How would you recognize this issue?  This is the first question.  And I understand that, UN Panel of Experts is examining the issue.  But China refuses to reveal the evidence and does not accept that examination.  So do you think this reveals a lack of accountability in China to the international society?  And I think it is an apparent threat to the security of Northeast Asia.  And China must explain clearly.  How would you approach China to be accountable, do you have any intention to raise this issue to the Security Council? Thank you.

SG: First of all, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1874, the Security Council has established the Panel of Experts.  And recently, the report of this Panel of Experts was released.  That is the obligation of all member states to fully comply with relevant Security Council resolution.  I have been discussing this matter and I met recently the Panel of Experts on this issue.  But at this time I do not have clear information on this particular issue.  I will look into this matter when I return.

Q: You talked about Syria, the monitoring mission on the ground.  You said that the mission on the ground is not being able to fulfill all of its role.  So in what way the role of the monitoring mission would transform in future, do you have any clear-cut blue print going ahead?

SG: On June the 15th, the General Mood, who is head of this monitoring team, has decided to suspend temporarily the monitoring activities.  I can tell you that how difficult, how dangerous it has been for unarmed military soldiers, peacekeepers.  They were on the direct target and threat by both Syrian government forces and opposition forces.  And they are directly targeting for their own purpose.  Eleven armored vehicles of the United Nations have been totally damaged by these direct attacks.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt, nobody was killed.  It would have been a matter of time that the peacekeepers might have been killed, or seriously injured by this direct target.  Because of such very dangerous situation, we had to suspend.  That does not mean that our monitors have always been keeping themselves inside the barracks.  They have been doing some more targeted monitoring activities and verifications and they have been trying to liaise with the Syrian government officials and try to make some activities possible even despite such difficult situations.  Our role will be, will have to be changed under these circumstances.  That is why I have reported to the Security Council.  I reported several options, stating the pros and cons of these options.  My recommendation among several options was that while keeping these 300 soldiers, in that you have operational flexibilities, by substantially reducing the number of monitors at this time, until we see the improvement of the situation there.  At the same time we will try to strengthen our contact with the local people.  We will try to strengthen our liaising and political dialogue with the Syrian government, so that we will focus more on this resolution of this political transition issue.  That is the main concept. We are not changing any framework of our mandate.  We are trying to maintain a basic framework of our monitoring teams there.

Q: Thank you very much.  I’d like to ask you about again Afghanistan.  One of the biggest changes during these 10 years after 2002 as you mentioned that is emerging countries involvement in Afghanistan’s future that is China and India.  I’d like to ask your views on these two countries playing role.  What kind of expectation do you have? In particular a political role.  They are already biggest investors of mining sectors, natural resources development in Afghanistan.  But what kind of playing role do you expect in terms of political role. Thank you very much.

SG: China and India, they are clearly two very important emerging economies who are playing greater role all throughout the world through south-south cooperation and political influence, and their diplomatic horizons are being expanded widely.  It would be important and desirable that China and India continue to invest in helping social economic development of Afghanistan as the security situation improves after ISAF forces withdraw.  I know that they have already been doing investment.  This is a good way of south-south cooperation and I would strongly encourage any other country not only China and India, to develop a more cooperative relationship with Afghanistan in the future.

We have been investing much more on security sectors.  There have been a lot of casualties and victims and sacrifices on the part of troop contributing countries.  Now with their withdrawal plans, and transition plans I hope that before they completely withdraw they should first of all strengthen the Afghan-national security as well as the police capacity, strengthen them so that they can ownership of their own security.  This should be accompanied economic cooperation for Afghanistan by many countries.  Thank you very much.

Q: I have a question about the reform of the Security Council.  The Japanese government, just the other day, raised a plan about quasi permanent member, longer than two years in term and opening up the avenue for becoming a full permanent member in the future.  What do you think about this, allowing for the status of a quasi permanent member of the Security Council.  And what do you think about Japan fulfilling that position?

SG: I’m very much well aware of aspirations of the Japanese people and the government to play a greater leadership role in the Security Council by serving as one of the permanent members of the Security Council.  To make that possible this United Nations Charter should be amended to allow reforming the Security Council.  There is a broad consensus among the members of the United Nations that the Security Council should be changed in a more democratic, more representative way, considering such a vast change, significant changes that have taken place during the last six decades.  Japan in that regard has been working very hard and promoting their interests to serve as one of the permanent members.  Several member states have presented certain options. The idea of serving a longer term as a non-permanent member, not exactly as permanent members within the current membership of permanent members.  That is one of several options which have been discussed among the member states.  At this time, while I have taken note of such proposals, idea of the Japanese government, all these options and ideas should be discussed further by member states.  Until now, member states have not been able to agree on any specific ideas.  I sincerely hope that the Japanese delegation will continue to discuss this matter with other members of the United Nations.  Thank you very much.


Off-the-Cuff on 8 July 2012