New York

16 August 2017

Secretary-General's press encounter at United Nations Headquarters

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for your presence.
It is good to see all of you again.  I hope you managed to get some time away.  But as you know, our world has been far from quiet. 
There is much anxiety around the globe.  In particular, tensions related to the Korean peninsula are at levels not seen in decades.
We remember the enormous suffering caused by the Korean War that began 67 years ago.  More than three million people were killed – with a civilian death rate higher than World War II.  The Korean peninsula was left in ruins.  Many nations were directly engaged and experienced heavy losses. 
We need to heed the lessons of history – not to repeat the mistakes. 
The Security Council was united in adopting resolution 2371 on 5 August. 
This resolution sends an unambiguous message regarding the peace and security obligations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 
It is obviously my role as UN Secretary-General to support the comprehensive implementation of Security Council resolutions, namely this last one.  I call on all Member States to fully fulfill their related obligations.
But all concerned parties should also recognize that the unified adoption of resolution 2371 represents an opportunity for diplomatic engagement and renewed dialogue to solve this crisis. 
There are many possible avenues for this dialogue – from various bilateral formations to the 6-party talks. 
As tensions rise, so does the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculation or escalation. 
That is why it is so important to dial down rhetoric and to dial up diplomacy. 
For my part, I want to repeat that my good offices are always available – and I conveyed this message yesterday to the representatives of the 6-party talks.     
I will remain in close contact with all concerned parties and stand ready to assist in any way.
Consistent with resolution 2371, through words and actions, the international community must send a clear, coherent message to the leadership of the DPRK:  fully comply with international obligations, work towards reopening communication channels and support efforts to deescalate the situation.   
I welcome the continued critical engagement by Member States and support the call of the Republic of Korea to the DPRK to engage in a credible and meaningful dialogue. 
This includes through confidence-building measures to defuse tension and to enable steps aimed at the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The solution to this crisis must be political. The potential consequences of military action are too horrific to even contemplate.
Thank you.  I am available for a few questions.
Question:  Hi. Mario Villar with EFE. On Venezuela, Secretary-General, you have been insistent on dialogue in this situation, but that doesn't seem to have worked so far. What is your message to the Government right now?
 
Secretary-General:  Well, it's a very clear message that Venezuela needs a political solution based on dialogue and compromise between the Government and the opposition.  I recognise the efforts [of] international facilitators and regional leaders that are assisting the Venezuelan Government and the opposition in trying to advance political negotiations. I strongly support those efforts. I've been in close contact with all of them, and I urge the Government and the opposition to restart negotiations because I believe that only solution is a political solution based on those negotiations.

Question:  Any critics to the Government's repression of the demonstrations? We haven't heard very much from you on that side.

Secretary-General:  Well, I think that it is very clear that Latin America has successfully struggled over the last decades to free itself from both foreign intervention and authoritarianism, and I think this is a legacy that must be safeguarded.

Question:  Secretary-General? Michelle Nichols from Reuters. Thank you for speaking with us today. Just a follow-up on Venezuela: The US President, Donald Trump, has threatened a possible military intervention to help solve this crisis. What's your response to that?  And also, has Nicolás Maduro become a dictator?  And a follow-up on North Korea: Ahead of the joint military exercises next week between the US and South Korea, which North Korea tends to see as an escalation of tensions, what's your message to the North Korean leader and President Trump ahead of those exercises?

Secretary-General:  First of all, in relation to Venezuela, I would repeat what I clearly said. Latin America has successfully managed to get rid of both foreign intervention and authoritarianism, and this is a lesson that is very important to make sure that this legacy is safeguarded and namely in Venezuela, both aspects of it.

And in relation to the need of the escalation, it is clear, but I think it's important to recognise that everything started with the build-up of a potential nuclear capacity and of a number of missiles to be able to deliver that capacity. And so, I think that it is essential that the Security Council resolutions are implemented. And based on that implementation, I hope that this will lead to a process leading to clear de-escalation of all sources of tension in the region.

Question:  Thanks, Farhan. Secretary-General, Sherwin Bryce-Pease. What is your reaction to President… I'm afraid it's another President Donald Trump question. What is your reaction to the President's remarks yesterday that appear to have given a moral equivalency between neo-Nazi, racist hate groups and those that gathered to protest their bigotry? What will you say to the President of the United States today?

Secretary-General:  Well, I do not comment on what presidents say. I affirm principles. And the principles I affirm are very clear. Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia are, as I mentioned yesterday, poisoning our societies. And it is absolutely essential for us all to stand up against them everywhere and every time. And I think that, speaking as Secretary-General, I should speak for the whole world, but speaking as a European, if there is something I am proud as a European is the contribution that Europe gave to all civilisation with the values of Enlightenment:  Tolerance, the respect for the other, the importance of recognition of diversity. And to be able to stand for these values and to… at the same time, to condemn all forms of irrationality that undermine those values is essential, at the present moment, be it in the United States or everywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, these demons are appearing a little bit everywhere.

Spokesman:  Herman.
 
Question:  [in French] Monsieur le Secrétaire Général, une question en français: le rapport des experts sur la RDC fait des révélations accablantes, impliquant même le gouvernement. Vous allez rencontrer dans quelques heures le ministre des Affaires étrangères ; quel est votre message ? Et serez-vous prêt pour un éventuel report des élections puisqu’apparemment, c’est le plan B, vu la situation ?

Secretary-General: [in French] Je dois vous dire que j’ai envoyé hier au Conseil de sécurité le résumé de ce rapport  - le rapport sera envoyé, et aux familles que je salue et que je recevrai aussi en leur témoignant toute ma solidarité, et aux pays concernés. C’est clair dans ce rapport que les deux experts sont des victimes innocentes, ils n’ont rien fait qui puisse contribuer à ce crime intolérable et c’est naturellement mon intention de tout faire dans les contacts, et avec le gouvernement du Congo et avec le Conseil de sécurité, pour que les criminels soient punis.  Et je suis prêt à discuter, et avec les uns, et avec les autres, les formules pratiques de travail, de follow-up pour permettre que cette accountability, cette prestation de compte, soit garantie. Après les consultations que je ferai avec le Congo et avec les membres du Conseil de sécurité, je présenterai des propositions adéquates.

Last question. 

Spokesman:  Yeah, Richard?

Question:  Mr Secretary, we don't see you often. I guess I want to know, how much pressure do you get from the US Government to not speak? We've… this has happened with your predecessor, but also, what is it like in these unprecedented times for you to represent the United Nations with a totally different US President who means a lot in what the US Government offers to the UN? I know you don't want to quote what he has said, but this has to affect you and the institution. What is the impact?

Secretary-General:  Well, I've received no pressure at all not to speak. We had, in a previous meeting, discussed, which I read, probably too much of a low profile, and I said that I was going to correct that. I believe this stakeout is the proof that I am doing it. And there is nothing that will influence me not to affirm the values that I consider the essential values of the Charter and the essential values of our common civilisation.  [Cross talk] And, whenever necessary, I will say whatever I believe is necessary, independently of the fact that that might be not pleasant for the President of this country or any other country.