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How UN Security Council Responded to Tension on Korean Peninsula

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One of the most perilous situations of the past year was the conflict on the Korean Peninsula that was brought to the UN Security Council in what was the last week of its 2010 session.(1)

On Saturday December 18, Vitaly Churkin, the Russian Federation Ambassador to the UN, requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to be held on Saturday.

In what Ambassador Churkin called "a departure from the practice of the Council", the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, as President of the Security Council for the month of December, declined to hold a meeting until the following day. (2) Instead she scheduled consultations to start at 11 a.m. on Sunday, December 19, with a view to the possibility of holding a formal meeting later in the day.

On Sunday, 50 or more journalists gathered at the stakeout outside the UN Security Council. Ambassadors and other representatives of the 15 nations on the council gradually filtered into the Security Council chambers. Also arriving were representatives of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and B. Lynn Pasco, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

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US Ambassador Rice, acting as the President of the Council for December, arrived at around 11:20 am.

The Security Council members held bi-laterals, closed consultations, took a short lunch break, and had a closed meeting as part of its emergency session.

Little actual information was provided to journalists waiting in the press stakeout area about what was happening. The emergency session came to a close, approximately eight hours after it had begun. When the emergency session was over, Ambassador Churkin came to the press stakeout to report to journalists. He said that council members had failed to reach the unanimous agreement needed to issue a press statement. The draft press statement the Russian Federation had proposed had been revised at least twice, but still did not achieve the unanimous agreement needed to issue it as a document from the Council.

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In the draft press statement, the Russian Federation urged the two Koreas to show restraint in their actions. Also the draft proposed that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appoint an envoy to help the two Koreas to peacefully resolve the problems causing the current crisis situation. The blog "Turtle Bay" reported obtaining a copy of the original Russian Federation draft statement.(3) Here is the reported draft posted on the blog:

"The Members of the Security Council have considered in an emergency meeting of the Council on 18 December 2010 a dangerous aggravation of the situation in the Korean peninsula. They heard a briefing by _____________________.

The Members of the Security Council called upon all parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid any steps which could cause a further escalation of tension in the Korean peninsula and the entire region.

The Members of the Security Council stressed the need to undertake efforts to ensure a de-escalation of tension in the relations between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, resumption of dialogue and resolution of all problems dividing them exclusively through peaceful diplomatic means.

The Members of the Security Council requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to dispatch without delay his special representative to the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to consult on urgent measures to settle peacefully the current crisis situation in the Korean peninsula.

The Members of the Security Council also requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to stay in close coordination with other countries concerned in this regard."

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In response to objections raised by some of the other Council members, Ambassador Churkin told journalists he had revised the statement. The blog Inner City Press reported that in one of the revised drafts, Ambassador Churkin, the Chinese representative, and others on the Security Council had agreed to wording that said that the members of the Security Council "condemned the shelling" of 23 November 2010. (4) The draft did not attribute blame for the shelling, reflecting the fact that both sides had done shelling.

The Council, however, was not able to come to an agreement on the text. Ambassador Churkin expressed his regret that the emergency meeting had not been called on Saturday afternoon as he had requested. He felt that would have provided more time for Council members to work out wording they could all agree on.

In response to a question to him from a journalist about the danger of what was happening on the Korean Peninsula, Ambassador Churkin responded(5):

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Ronda Hauben covers the United Nations and UN related issues in her blog at taz.de, "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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