The United Nations is in the process of seeking a successor to
Secretary- General Kofi Annan, whose term expires at the end of this
Many believe that this time, it is Asia's turn to fill the
position. Mr. Annan himself voiced the same idea when visiting Tokyo
earlier this month. The selection has already captured worldwide
attention, and expectations are that China will prove itself to be a
key player in recruiting an Asian for the post. With enormous power
derived from explosive economic growth, China has been attempting to
increase its influence around the globe. The process of choosing the
next UN chief could reveal how China is shaping international
politics for the coming decades.
Currently there are three Asians who have already declared their
candidacy for the job: South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-Moon;
Thai deputy premier Surakiart Sathirathai; and Sri Lanka's Jayantha
Dhanapala, UN undersecretary-general for disarmament from 1998 to
After Ban Ki-Moon's candidacy was announced in mid-February, the
Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun immediately ruled out a possible
Tokyo nod for him because of Seoul's fierce opposition to the
Japanese bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council. Mr.
Surakiart is the official candidate of the 10-country Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and he claims support from 128 UN
members. However, his campaign is now shadowed by recent political
turmoil in Bangkok and the defeat Thailand suffered earlier this
month in the election for members of the newly established UN Human
Former UN Undersecretary-General Dhanapala seems to be in a
better position. With a long career in multilateral diplomacy
focusing on peace and security, his qualifications are highly
competitive. Educated in the US, Mr. Dhanapala served a two-year
tour as Sri Lankan ambassador to Washington from 1995 to 1997. In
addition to English, he also speaks Chinese and French. In media
interviews, Dhanapala has pledged his commitment to UN reform.
People might argue that if selected, Dhanapala would be another
UN chief, like Annan, out of its bureaucratic ranks. However,
firsthand experience in the huge world body would be a considerable
benefit toward executing any meaningful reform.
For all three candidates, as longtime UN experts predict, the
real competition will probably begin in the summer, before the UN
General Assembly convenes in September.
In accordance with the UN Charter, "The Secretary General shall
be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the
Security Council. …