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Escalating Tension on the Korean Peninsula and the Role of the UN

By       Message Ronda Hauben       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Ban Ki-moon's Response


Just a few hours after the hostilities had erupted between the two Koreas on November 23, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a press statement that "the Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula caused by today's artillery attack by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on the Yeongpyeong Island. The attack was one of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War." And that he "condemns the attack and calls for immediate restraint."(1) Also the statement said that Ban conveyed his "utmost concern" on the matter to the President of the Security Council.


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Such a statement represents a problem for the UN. Article 100 of the UN Charter says: "In the performance of their duties the Secretary General and the staff shall not receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the Organization. They shall refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the organization."


The Secretary General is a former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). If there is a problem between two nations, the obligation under the charter would be to inquire into the situation before making a statement or taking an action which favors one side in the dispute. This is not what the Secretary General did. Instead, he quickly made a public statement about the conflict, taking the side of South Korea.

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In his hastily issued statement, Ban Ki-moon blamed North Korea for its actions and expressed sympathies to South Korea. Reports from North Korea, and also from South Korea, however, indicate that at 1:00 pm on November 23, North Korea complained to South Korea about the live firing by the South Korean military into disputed waters which both North Korea and South Korea claim. North Korea said that the firing of live ammunition came from Yeongpyeong Islet, where South Korea has a military base. When there was no response from South Korea to North Korea's efforts to communicate, North Korea said it had no choice but to return the fire, acting in self defense.


Much of the media, however, does not include North Korea's side of the story in its coverage of Korean news. For example, in this situation, numerous accounts of how North Korea fired at the Yeonpyeong Islet of South Korea appeared in the media, presenting this as but another example of North Korea's so called "bellicose' and "irrational' nature.


It is rare that any of the mainstream media accounts in the US document the hostile environment of multiple war exercises and rehearsals for an invasion carried out by the South Korean and US military threatening North Korean security. It is rare that any of the mainstream news media, particularly in the US, give information about the background of the tension in this area.

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Armistice Did Not Solve Contested Waters of the West Sea


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Ronda Hauben covers the United Nations and UN related issues in her blog at, "Netizen Journalism and the New News". As a co-author with Michael Hauben of the book "Netizens: On the History and Impact of the Usenet and the (more...)

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