Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday ranked the North Korean missile and nuclear threat and the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar as the two top global concerns as the General Assembly prepares for the annual high-level meeting world leaders.
Speaking to reporters, he demanded that Myanmar stop military action, allow the refugees back home permit aid to reach them, and appealed for international help for the refugees.
In a week the number of refugees had tripled to nearly 380,000, he said, and many of them are hungry and malnourished.
Guterres said that he had taken the step of writing to the Security Council to take up the Myanmar issue the first time since 1989 that a Secretary-General has taken the step, which is an indication of the seriousness he attached to it.
Shortly afterward, the Security Council responded by issuing a statement asking the Myanmar government to end military action and allow humanitarian aid to reach the affected people.
Guterres noted that he had condemned the attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine State, but he said that “there have been disturbing reports of attacks by security forces against civilians, which are completely unacceptable.”
On North Korea, he said that only a peaceful resolution would work and warned, “Military action could cause devastation on a scale that would take generations to overcome.”
He welcomed the latest resolution from the Security Council on Monday tightening sanctions on Pyongyang, but pointed out that it also had provisions for diplomatic engagement.
He said all the countries should observe the sanctions imposed by the Security Council and at the same time seize the opportunity it has created for diplomatic engagement.
Asked about Afghanistan and the United States decision to send in more troops there, he said, “I don’t think there is a military solution.”
He said that while the Donald Trump administration was increasing its troop level there it was also leaving the options open for a political solution.
There has to be an investment in finding a political solution by bringing together the parties to the conflict there.
Guterres refused to be drawn into a criticism of Trump, even though the two of them have openly differed on several issues.
He said that all efforts will be made to create conditions for constructive cooperation between the US and the UN.
Asked about the Trump administration wanting to cut its contributions to the UN, especially its peacekeeping operations, Guterres said that while he was committed to “preserve the integrity” of peacekeeping mandates, it was possible to reduce the costs through increased efficiency.
He said that a 15 percent reduction in the peacekeeping budget may be possible through rational use of resources without affecting the effectiveness of the operations.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected])