[Viewpoint] Don’t ignore the Security Council

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[Viewpoint] Don’t ignore the Security Council

I watched CNN’s coverage of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice delivering a strongly worded condemnation of North Korea for its attack on Yeonpyeong Island and renewed uranium enrichment activities in a Security Council meeting on Nov. 29.

We appreciate our strong ally, the U.S., for taking a tough stand against North Korea on the international stage. But where is our own voice? We are the victims, aren’t we?

The Security Council is a pivotal UN organization in charge of sustaining global peace and security. Almost three weeks have passed since North Korea bombarded the populated frontline island of Yeonpyeong. But our government has yet to bring forward to the council the worst North Korean provocation since the end of the Korean War.

Why have we not yet brought North Korea’s irrefutable invasion of our territory to the attention of the Security Council? The foreign ministry may be dragging its feet after the setback in the Security Council’s response to the North’s torpedo attack on the South Korean naval ship Cheonan in May. Due to strong protest from China, the UN response was watered down to a statement from the initially hoped for resolution, and even the statement fell short of specifically blaming North Korea for the attack.

The foreign ministry may fear another round of successful lobbying by China, resulting in disappointment that could further anger the public at home. But I still think the government should refer the issue to the Security Council as soon as possible.

First of all, the shelling of Yeonpyeong is essentially different from the Cheonan case. The Cheonan ship was a military target whereas Yeonpyeong is civilian territory. It was an act of war that killed civilians. Even Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that North Korea deserves to be censored and must take responsibility for firing at human settlements. “People died,” he said. “This is the main point.”

Second, unlike the Cheonan sinking, the international community immediately condemned North Korea’s action. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the attack “the gravest incident” since the end of the Korean War and declared to the Security Council his “enormous” interest in the affair. Canada, the EU, India and many others joined in the chorus of condemnation.

We must look at the Security Council’s organization. Even if China maintains its stubborn stance, South Korea can at least get votes of support from nine to 13 member countries. Moreover, the U.S. chairs the Security Council in December. We are in an advantageous position to pursue a statement or resolution in our favor.

Third, if we seek a resolution on North Korea, China may attempt to veto it. But such a move in the current climate could boomerang on Beijing. If China resists an international consensus despite continuous pressure from South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, it will have to answer to international censure.

Fourth, the government should take heed of public opinion, but not be led by it. The Security Council’s presidential statement on the Cheonan sinking didn’t deny our position. The statement clearly cited the international report that concluded North Korea was responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan and expressed “deep concern.” It briefly added that North Korea denied involvement.

Our people must understand that we are relinquishing our rights and duty as a UN member as well as setting a bad precedent if we do not seek Security Council action. Are we going to pass over the Security Council in fear of protest from a certain country if similar provocations take place in the future?

The government, as agreed in a foreign ministerial meeting among Korea, the U.S. and Japan in Washington, should press for a more responsible role from China in reining in North Korea.

At the same time, it must take a legal stand on the Security Council and use all its diplomatic power to muster strong international condemnation against North Korean.

President Lee Myung-bak warned of military retaliation to future provocations. But diplomatic steps - especially through the Security Council - are equally important.

*Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
The writer is president of the World Federation of United Nations Associations.

By Park Soo-gil
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