Can the Security Council Act to Calm Rising Tension on Korean Peninsula?

In a statement to the press issued early Saturday evening, December 18, Vitaly Churkin, the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations explains that “This morning (Saturday morning) I sent a letter to the current President of the Security Council – the delegation of the United States requesting an emergency meeting of the Council be called on the situation in the Korean peninsula.”(1)

Churkin explains that he took this action because, “We believe that the Security Council must send a restraining signal to the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the DPRK (North Korea) and help launch diplomatic activity with a view to resolving all issues of dispute between the two Korean sides by political and diplomatic means.”

Rule 2 of the Security Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, states that:

“The President shall call a meeting of the Security Council at the request of any member of the Security Council.”(2)

No meeting of the Security Council took place on Saturday in response to Churkin’s request.

Churkin’s statement explains that, “the President of the Security Council declined to convene such a meeting today (Saturday). We regret that.” He maintains that “such a step by the President is a departure from the practice existing in the Council.”

In his statement, Churkin indicates that the US delegation had promised that there would be a meeting of the Council convened on Sunday, December 19 at 11 am (NY time), and that information about the Security Council meeting would be circulated to members of the Council, the UN Secretariat and the media. “We assume that nothing will happen in the interim that would bring about a further aggravation on the Korean peninsula,” said Churkin in his statement to the press.

The notice from the Secretariat to journalists about a Sunday meeting of the Security Council, however, indicated only that closed “consultations would be held at 11 am on Sunday December 18, “with a view to a formal meeting.”

The US government has been encouraging South Korea to carry out a live fire drill in the contested waters of the West Sea. This is an area that the two Koreas have previously recognized needs to be treated as a peace zone because it is a particularly dangerous site where hostilities between the two Koreas can easily break out.(3)

Calling for live fire drills in these waters is creating what Bill Richardson, the Governor of New Mexico and a long time envoy to North Korea calls a “tinderbox”.

In a statement released by his office late Saturday night, Richardson said: “I hope that the U.N. Security Council will pass a strong resolution calling for self-restraint from all sides in order to seek peaceful means to resolve this dispute.”(4)

Supporting the need for Security Council action to help lessen the tension, Richardson said:

“A U.N. resolution could provide cover for all sides that prevents aggressive military action.”

A draft press statement that is being proposed by the Russian Ambassador to the Security Council, which was made available to a UN correspondent would “stress the need” to “de-escalate” tension in the relations between North Korea and South Korea.(5) It would call for a resumption of dialogue and the resolution of all problems….”

Also the press draft requests that the Secretary General dispatch a special representative to North Korea and South Korea “to consult on urgent matters and to settle peacefully the crisis….” In February 2010 the Secretary General had sent a 4 person delegation from his office to consult with North Korea. Reporting back to the press from that trip, one of the envoys explained that among the issues raised were how to phrase the disagreements in a way that it recognized the interests of the different parties to the controversy and what sequence was acceptable to take up the problems.(6)

In a situation where there is a danger of a new Korean war, can the Security Council act to make a difference?

1. Statement by Amb. Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010 at 6:21 pm. Email to press.

2.Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council.

3. Ronda Hauben, “Escalating Tension on the Korean Peninsula and the Role of the UN”,, November 29, 2010.

4.Colum Lynch, “Russia Presses for UN Role in Mediating Crisis in the Koreas”, Saturday, December 18, 2010.

5.”Security Council to Meet as SKorea set on Exercise”, The Boston Globe, Sunday, December 19, 2010–+World+News

6. Ronda Hauben, “UN-North Korean Talks Hint at a Peace Treaty on the Korean Peninsula”, Global Times, February 21, 2010.
A version of this article also appears on the netizenblog,


Ronda Hauben who is an award winning journalist, writer, and resident correspondent for (Die Tageszeitung) at the United Nations in New York is also a Senior Advisor to the Fourth Media, English Website of the April Media. She also worked as United Nations Special Correspondent for the, the most popular citizen web media in South Korea.

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