Seoul: UN chief Ban Ki-moon is to visit North Korea, the first head of the world body to set foot in the isolated state for more than 20 years, South Korea’s news agency reported today.
Citing an unidentified high-level UN source, Yonhap new agency said Ban would visit Pyongyang in his official capacity as secretary general later this week, though no precise dates were given.
The UN spokesman’s office in New York declined to comment on the report.
The high-level UN source told Yonhap that Ban was almost certain to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, who has yet to receive a single head of state since taking over power following the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in 2011.
“There can’t be such a situation where the UN secretary-general visits North Korea and does not meet with the supreme leader of the UN member state,” the source said.
Ban had been scheduled to visit North Korea in May this year, but Pyongyang withdrew its invitation at the last minute.
Although no official explanation was given, that cancellation was seen as a response to comments Ban made in Seoul warning the North against raising tensions on the divided peninsula.
Two UN secretary generals have visited North Korea in the past — Kurt Waldheim in 1979 and, in 1993, Boutros Boutros-Ghali who met with then-leader Kim Il-Sung to discuss tensions over its nuclear ambitions.
It will not be Ban’s first visit to the North. He crossed the border to visit the joint industrial zone of Kaesong with a delegation of foreign diplomats in 2006 when he was South Korea’s foreign minister.