- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council unanimously selected South Korean diplomat Ban Ki-moon to be the organization’s eighth secretary-general yesterday, acting just hours after North Korea declared it had tested a nuclear weapon.

The 192 member-nations of the U.N. General Assembly are expected to affirm the choice later this week or early next week, giving the low-key South Korean foreign minister more than two months to prepare before beginning his five-year term.

“The Security Council has just recommended to the General Assembly that Ban Ki-moon [serve as secretary-general] from Jan. 1, 2007 to Dec. 31, 2011,” said Japanese U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, president of the 15-nation council during the month of October.

The selection of a new secretary-general, normally a momentous occasion, was overshadowed by Pyongyang’s nuclear test claim, which prompted an emergency session of the council immediately after the vote.

In Seoul, Mr. Ban called the nuclear test an “act of provocation” and acknowledged mixed emotions on the day of his selection.

“This should be a moment of joy. But instead, I stand here with a very heavy heart” because of the North’s nuclear test, he told reporters in Seoul yesterday.

Last week, he told the Chosun Ilbo, a leading Seoul daily, he wants to visit North Korea sometime during his term, something outgoing U.N. chief Kofi Annan had never been able to do in his ten-year tenure.

Several diplomats seemed pleased that a Korea policy veteran will lead the organization during an era of unprecedented threats to international peace and security.

“The fact that the candidate is the current foreign minister of [South Korea] is an asset in dealing with the situation on the Korean peninsula,” Mr. Oshima said.

U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton, who has been pushing North Korea onto the council’s agenda for months, described the selection of Mr. Ban as “quite an appropriate juxtaposition.”

“Sixty-one years after the temporary division of the Korean peninsula at the end of World War II, we’re electing the foreign minister of South Korea [as] secretary-general of this organization, and meeting as well to consider testing by North Korea of a nuclear device,” Mr. Bolton said.

“I can’t think of a better way to show great progress in the south, great tragedy in the north.”

Mr. Ban’s selection by the council had been assured after he emerged as the consensus choice in a series of four straw polls since this summer.

Council members stayed in session after the 15-0 vote, moving directly to the thornier issue of how to respond to North Korea’s defiance of the council’s demand late last week that it abandon its nuclear pursuits.

Emyr Jones Parry, Britain’s U.N. ambassador, praised Mr. Ban’s “very impressive credentials” and his “vast and long diplomatic experience” in South Korea’s foreign service.

Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, France’s U.N. ambassador, praised Mr. Ban’s experience in dealing with North Korea, as well as his work on development and trade relations with Africa.

“He has all the qualifications for this job,” Mr. de la Sabliere said, stressing the possibility of renewed efforts to reform the world body’s bureaucracy.

Mr. Ban, 62, was educated in Seoul and at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he studied public administration. He is married with three grown children.

The career diplomat twice served in his country’s embassy in Washington, and ran the South Korean foreign ministry’s American affairs division in the early 1990s. He has represented South Korea at the United Nations in New York and in Vienna, where he handled the nuclear portfolio.

Mr. Ban served as the chief of staff to the president of the U.N. General Assembly in 2001 and 2002, a session that was dominated by the September 11 attacks.

Mr. Annan offered his congratulations to Mr. Ban and promised his full cooperation.

“For his part, the secretary-general will do everything possible to assure a smooth transition,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Mr. Annan.

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