Interpol announced on Wednesday that Kim Jong-yang of South Korea had been chosen as its new president, beating a Russian official whose candidacy had unnerved Western nations.
The US-backed Kim, Interpol’s acting president, was picked at a meeting of delegates from Interpol member nations in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, to replace Meng Hongwei, who went missing in his native China in September.
Interpol said on Twitter that Kim, who had been serving as acting president, had been elected for a two-year term. The presidency, a largely ceremonial role, is typically held for four years.
Kim Jong Yang, INTERPOL President: Our world is now facing unprecedented changes which present huge challenges to public security and safety. To overcome them, we need a clear vision: we need to build a bridge to the future.#INTERPOLGA pic.twitter.com/D4n7m61fy9— INTERPOL (@INTERPOL_HQ) November 21, 2018
It said Nestor R. Roncaglia of Argentina had been elected to a three-year term as vice president for the Americas.
“Our world is now facing unprecedented changes which present huge challenges to public security and safety,” Kim told Interpol’s general assembly in Dubai, according to the agency’s Twitter account.
“To overcome them, we need a clear vision: we need to build a bridge to the future.”
Day-to-day work is handled by Secretary-General Jurgen Stock of Germany, but the presidency still commands influence, according to Reuters.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo endorsed the South Korean candidate to take the helm of Interpol, brushing aside Moscow’s concerns that rivals are mounting a last-minute effort to scuttle a Russian frontrunner’s chances, according to AFP.
Pompeo told reporters in Washington: “We strongly endorse Kim Jong-Yang.”
“We encourage all nations and organizations that are part of Interpol and that respect the rule of law to choose a leader with integrity. We believe Mr Kim will be just that”.
The endorsement came as critics called on Interpol to reject Russian candidate Alexander Prokopchuk over fears Moscow could abuse the role to target political opponents.
Moscow’s critics have raised concerns over Russia’s previous applications for Interpol “Red Notices,” or international arrest warrants, to target those who have fallen foul of the Kremlin.
Prokopchuk, a Russian interior ministry official and current Interpol vice president, appeared to be the favourite for the position.
British foreign office minister Harriet Baldwin on Tuesday told parliament that London would support Kim’s bid.
“We always seek to endorse candidates who have a history of observing standards of international behaviour,” she said.
Also Interpol’s general assembly rejected Kosovo’s bid for membership on Tuesday, a decision assailed by Pristina as the result of a “fierce campaign” led by its historic rival Serbia.
It was the third time since 2015 that Interpol’s general assembly, meeting since Sunday in Dubai, had voted against allowing Kosovo to join the international police agency.
Interpol said in a statement from its headquarters in Lyon, France, that while the bids of Pacific island nations Kiribati and Vanuatu were approved by delegates, Kosovo had not secured the required two-thirds majority.
Kosovo’s government expressed “deep disappointment” with the decision.
“The fierce campaign of the Republic of Serbia once again proved its character against Kosovo and against the idea of normalizing relations with the Republic of Kosovo, as above all this membership was technical and not political,” it said.
Majority-Albanian Kosovo broke away from Serbia after a bitter 1998-99 war which resulted in 13,000 deaths, and Pristina declared its independence in 2008.