UPDATE: October 17, 2012 – South Korean delegation wins its bid for a non-permanent UN Security Council seat.
South Korea is vying to secure a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council this week, but it won’t be able to let its guard down in the face of competition from two other Asian nations, officials said Sunday.
1) Can you give us some background on when and what nation’s are vying to join the exclusive international security group?
The UN Security Council (UNSC) is the only UN organ that has the authority to recommend the use of sanctions and/or force, among other things. More specifically, the UNSC is represented by five veto-wielding permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and 10 non-permanent members. The 10 non-permanent member states are elected to serve two-year terms. The United Nations is scheduled to vote on the bid on Thursday (local time / October 18, 2012), with Cambodia and Bhutan also competing for the single seat assigned to the Asian region. South Korean diplomats, including Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, have stepped up efforts in recent months to win the support of U.N. member states in its bid to return to the council in 2013-2014. South Korea previously held a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council from 1996-1997.
2) What is the purpose of Seoul trying to return to the UN Security Council?
The Seoul government has also said securing a UNSC seat would help it reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula. “The U.N. Security Council is where the important issues of the world are discussed,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young said in a recent press briefing. “As a middle power with a top 10 economy, we would do our best to play our part in promoting international peace and security, and developing the international community.”
3) What are some of the nation’s main challenge in seeking an opportunity to secure their seat in the UNSC?
Seoul officials have stated it believes it may be close to securing the required number of votes — 129, or two-thirds of the U.N.’s 193 member nations — but continue to face competition from Cambodia and Bhutan, two states that are likely to win the support of other Southeast Asian nations and/or developing countries. Procedurally, if no country –- South Korea, Cambodia, or Bhutan — wins two-thirds of the vote, U.N. regulations require all member states to take part in additional rounds until the final winner emerges. “It would be best to win in the first round, but that might not be easy,” said a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “In that case, we would hope to have a big lead over the runner-up so as to beat them in the second round.”
4) What are some benefits that come with taking a seat at the UNSC? How will it help elevate Korea’s national image, economy, and security? And what are the responsibilities that come with taking a seat at the UNSC?
A UNSC seat — even a non-permanent member UNSC seat — would give any country added diplomatic sway and influence. This is because the UNSC members can utilize Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for sanctions and/or the use of force in certain conditions. For instance, Article 51 of the UN Charter under Chapter VII (collective self defence provision) – under one interpretation – allows for pre-emptive strikes against those states that may be preparing to launch an offensive strike against a target state.
5) Do you think that joining the security council will help ease tensions in the Northeast Asia region where touchy territorial and historical issues have always been at the center of most of its disputes – in the past and as of late?
Yes and no. Yes, since Northeast Asia has been particularly volatile not just recently with the disputed islands among South Korea, China, and Japan, but also dating back for over a century. So having an additional member from Northeast Asia will allow for more equal representation in this very important region. No, in the sense that if South Korea is allowed to join the UNSC, North Korea may also feel slighted, which in turn, may lead to more provocative acts by the DPRK. Recall that due to such need to seek equal representation by both Koreas, the UN gave both the ROK and DPRK simultaneous entry as UN member states in the same year, 1991, which was both purposeful and strategic.
6) What are the chances of Seoul joining the UN Security Council compared to the two other Southeast Asian countries?
It’s anybody’s guess. On the one hand, South Korea is a model economic success story that exists between two very large neighbors, China and Japan. South Korea is also trying to create peaceful relations on the Korean peninsula, which is at times, not an easy accomplishment. On the other hand, there may be concern that South Korea is, in a sense, over-represented in the UN, since the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is also from South Korea. It took Colombia and Cuba 154 rounds in 1979 and 47 rounds for Venezuela and Guatemala. Plus South Korea already was represented in the UNSC from 1996-97.