Press Conference by Security Council President on Work Programme for December (1 December 2017)

Priorities of Japan’s December presidency of the Security Council would include non‑proliferation, small arms and current challenges to maintaining peace and security, the country’s Permanent Representative said this afternoon.

Briefing correspondents at Headquarters on the Council’s work programme, Koro Bessho pledged to be as transparent as possible and speak to the press following consultations. Completion of scheduled meetings was planned for 21 December to allow, as usual, for a holiday schedule, barring unforeseen developments.

Non‑proliferation was on top of the agenda, he said, after this week’s launch of a long‑range ballistic missile by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. As a result, a ministerial‑level meeting on that country’s nuclear and missile programmes was planned for 15 December with several ministers already committed to participating. “This is a very strong threat to security and the awareness of the international community has been heightened”, he said.

As for contemporary challenges to peace and security, he said an open debate was slated for 20 December that would focus on how well the United Nations was addressing the new landscape, given that many conflicts today were not between countries and had diverse causes, and that a long‑term approach to peacebuilding and conflict prevention was needed. The meeting would address many of the issues the Secretary‑General had focused on in his reports on reform.

Turning to small arms, he noted that while the issue was not often discussed in the Council, the body requested every two years a report on the proliferation of those weapons, which killed many civilians around the world each year. The report would be discussed on 18 December, a timely arrival, he commented, given that Japan was on the bureau of the Arms Trade Treaty organization.

Regarding Syria, he said monthly briefings on the political and humanitarian situation would be held, given the slow start to intra‑Syrian dialogue now ongoing in Geneva. Humanitarian access had been seen to improve, but was still not adequate, and extending mechanisms to do that would be discussed.

Recalling last month’s failure to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism that aimed to determine the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria, he said there was consensus in the Council that use of chemical weapons was not permissible in any circumstance, and that the Council must prevent impunity. However, differences remained on how to do that and he expressed hope there would be a related resolution by the end of the month.

Other meetings included a 12 December briefing on the Secretary‑General’s report on the situation in Myanmar, which he foresaw provoking an active discussion. Responding to questions on that topic, he said the Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs would brief. Recalling the Presidential Statement last month, he said he hoped for a constructive meeting to determine the way forward.

To questions on the weapons programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said pressure had been brought to bear on the country, not simply condemnations but also measures to prevent that Government from acquiring the materials needed to build its military arsenal. The last resolution on the issue was robust and should have an effect if all Member States implemented it, he commented.

Several foreign ministers had already committed to attending the ministerial meeting and the Secretary‑General had been asked to brief, he said. The Council would seek to produce an outcome, but he was uncertain as to what that would be. The discussion would be open only to Council members but he could foresee serious bilateral meetings as well, as they were already occurring. If there was a request for representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to participate, that would be handled in the normal manner.

Some members had requested a briefing on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, possibly on 11 December, he said in answer to questions. The subject had not yet been decided. It was important that the link between the human rights situation in the country and the threats to peace and security in the region be understood. He did not foresee any specific action coming out of that meeting.

When asked why discussions on the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea had been “one sided”, given the threats it faced from military exercises, Mr. Bessho said Pyongyang had violated treaties and was the only Government in the world that had conducted nuclear tests in the twenty‑first century. Authorities were depriving people of resources they needed to live. The Council’s message, he said, was to stop the nuclear and missile development, and instead, use the resources to build a peaceful democratic nation in which people were provided the public services they deserved.

Asked why the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should end its nuclear programme, given the experiences of Iraq and Libya, he said those countries had a very different history. There had been many attempts to address the issue, including through previous agreed frameworks and the Six‑Party Talks. All members agreed they wanted a change in the country’s policy. “What we would like to see is a de‑nuclearized North Korea,” he said. “If they denuclearized they could live in peace with their neighbours.” Asked about the danger of war over the issue, he said he refused to speculate on hypotheticals.

Finally, asked about the prospects for Israeli‑Palestinian peace, he said the Council still embraced the necessity of the two‑State solution and a conducive environment for negotiations to restart. It was true, he acknowledged, that some members thought prospects were eroding and wanted changes in the way forward.

For the full programme of work, please see www.un.org/en/sc/programme.

For information media. Not an official record.