[Viewpoint]Power and politics inside the UN

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[Viewpoint]Power and politics inside the UN

In the history of the United Nations, secrets have always existed. When the Korean War broke out, an emergency UN Security Council meeting was called less than a day after North Korea began its invasion of the South. Council member countries passed a resolution condemning the North’s aggression. Twelve days later, a decision was made to deploy UN forces to the Korean Peninsula.

More than a half century has passed, but there is still an unsolved mystery. Why did the Soviet Union, which has veto power, fail to attend the Security Council meeting, twice, allowing the dispatch of UN forces to Korea? Some said the Soviet Union boycotted the sessions in protest of Taiwan taking the place of China on the council, but that is not a persuasive answer.

In the international arena of diplomatic maneuvers and backdoor dealings, it is common that the truth is never revealed. The mystery about a blank ballot cast when electing Ban Ki-moon as the UN secretary general is one such case.

Six candidates remained in October 2006 in the final round of selecting the new UN secretary general. Ban was elected with 14 votes, while one vote was counted as a blank ballot. The selection of a new secretary general was big news, but the world was also interested to know which country had stubbornly objected to Ban till the end. Unconfirmed reports flooded out as Korean diplomats tried to find out the answer, but failed.

One year later, a sensitive development took place. John Bolton, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, published a book in November last year. In his book, titled “Surrender Is Not an Option,” Bolton named Japan as the country that objected to Ban’s election. Japan denied it, but Bolton was firm. At a press conference, he said a country with an objection should write a book, just like he has done.

After this news was reported in Korea, many Internet users criticized Japan for jealousy. Others, however, had different things to say. Many of the Korean diplomats who worked hard for Ban’s election said the country objecting to him was not Japan. Ban’s aides also reportedly suspect a country other than Japan.

And yet, many don’t stop suspecting Japan, because they think the country does not want Korea’s diplomatic and national power to become stronger with Ban’s election. It is widely believed that Japan does not want the quick unification of the two Koreas. In fact, Henry Kissinger wrote in a book that China and Japan do not want Korean unification in the near future. He said their objections will be particularly strong against a unified Korea with North Korea’s nuclear arms.

If we put ourselves in their shoes, that’s probably natural. It is not because the Japanese hate Koreans. No country wants a nuclear-armed neighbor.

What we should pay attention to is that Japan has been persistently putting efforts on gaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Two years ago, Japan lost a decisive opportunity due to African nations. Some in Japan became pessimistic about its prospects of entering the UN Security Council.

And yet recently, Japanese diplomats have renewed their efforts. With Japan elected last month as a temporary member of the Security Council over Iran, the country will apparently use the opportunity to push its dream forward. A recent Yomiuri Shimbun editorial strongly urged Japan to make this the stepping stone for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

Let’s say that the two Koreas are about to be unified. If the United Nations is under Japan’s strong influence, will it actively support the unification of the Korean Peninsula?

The entire world is focused on the presidential victory of Barack Obama right now. However, it is important for us to pay close attention to the quiet and subtle but extremely significant shift inside the United Nations.


*The writer is the New York correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Nam Jung-ho

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