The U.N. Security Council has nominated South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon to be the world body's next secretary-general. The nomination now goes to the General Assembly, where final approval is all but certain.
Ban Ki-Moon took a giant step Monday toward becoming the eighth U.N. Secretary-General. Mr. Ban previously finished first in four informal straw polls, prompting all rivals for the job to withdraw.
The vote by acclamation in the Security Council is tantamount to appointment. The General Assembly must approve the nomination, but that is considered a formality.
The Council president for October, Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima announced Mr. Ban's nomination. "The Security Council has just recommended to the General Assembly that Mr. Ban Ki-Moon be appointed secretary-general of the United Nations for a term of office from first January 2007 to 31st December, 2011," he said.
The vote was taken moments before the Security Council met to consider sanctions against North Korea for exploding a nuclear device. Several diplomats, including Ambassador Oshima, had suggested Pyongyang's test was an attention-getting device timed to coincide with Ban's selection.
Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton noted the irony of the coincidence. "It is really quite an appropriate juxtaposition that today, 61 years after the temporary division of the Korean peninsula at the end of World War II, that we are electing the foreign minister of South Korea secretary general of this organization and meeting as well to consider the testing by the North Koreans of a nuclear device. I cannot think of a better way to show the difference in the progress that those two countries, great progress in the south, and great tragedy in the north," he said.
If confirmed by the General Assembly, Mr. Ban will take over as secretary-general January 1. His predecessor, Kofi Annan, completes 10 years in office December 31st.
The 62-year old South Korean is known as a soft-spoken, but effective, manager. In an interview last week, he said he hoped to visit Pyongyang, something Mr. Annan never did.
He will take over a bureaucracy with 9,000 employees and a $5 billion a year budget. In addition, the world body spends another $5 billion on peacekeeping, with 18 missions worldwide employing 90,000 troops, police officers, and civilians.