UN chief Ban Ki-moon expected to visit North Korea soon

UN chief Ban Ki-moon says he's "working hard to make visit to North at earliest possible date"

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attends the 10th East Asia Summit at the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 22, 2015.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will visit the isolated state of North Korea soon, but no detailed information has been released by the UN.

South Korean Ban Ki-moon met with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong and South Korean media commented on early Tuesday that Ban received “positive signs” from Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.

"We are discussing when would be the good time for me to visit the North, but so far nothing has been decided," Ban said.

When asked about the time and the details, “I can’t talk (about travel plans) right now, but I’m working hard to make a visit to the North at the earliest possible date,” he told reporters.

A statement from the UN said "The Secretary General has repeatedly said that he is willing to play any constructive role, including traveling to the DPRK, in an effort to work for peace, stability and dialogue on the Korean Peninsula."

The UN had denied last week news reports about the chief’s visit to Pyongyang this week.

"The Secretary General will not be traveling to the DPRK next week," said UN in a statement using another expression for North Korea.

Pyongyang invited Ban Ki-moon to visit the joint North-South Kaesong Industrial Zone that is located over the inter-Korean border. Ban was scheduled to visit in May, but Pyongyang withdrew the invitation at the last minute after UN chief criticised North Korea's missile test.

If Ban visits Pyongyang he would be the first UN chief to visit the country in the last 20 years and the first international name to meet with North’s leader Kim Jong Un who took power in 2011. Kim has not traveled outside the country in the last four years.

Ban will be the third UN chief to visit the North, after Kurt Waldheim in 1979 and Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993.

During Ban's possible visit, he is expected to discuss the UN sanctions against the North and its nuclear weapons programme, which is under multiple UN Security Council resolutions for its missile and nuclear tests.

Ban, when he was Foreign Minister of South Korea between 2004 - 2006 held multinational negotiations aimed at ending North’s nuclear programme.

North Korea has fired shells in August at a South Korean military base across the demilitarized zone, in response South Korea fired back dozens of artillery rounds.

The both countries, North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended with a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.

TRTWorld and agencies