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UN head said to be planning visit to DPRK

Updated: 2015-11-17 07:56
By Agencies in Seoul (China Daily)

Meeting with ROK's former foreign minister would be seen as major diplomatic breakthrough for Kim Jong-un

UN chief Ban Ki-moon will visit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea this week for a likely meeting with the nation's leader, Kim Jong-un, the Republic of Korea's Yonhap news agency reported on Monday.

If the trip takes place, Ban will be the first UN secretary-general to set foot in the DPRK in more than 20 years, and the first world leader to meet Kim since he formally assumed power nearly four years ago.

Citing an unidentified high-level UN source, Yonhap said Ban - a former ROK foreign affairs minister - will visit Pyongyang in his official capacity later this week, though no precise dates were given.

The UN source told Yonhap that Ban was almost certain to meet with Kim Jong-un - a meeting which, if it happens, will mark a major diplomatic opening by Pyongyang.

Earlier this year, Ban had made plans to visit a DPRK industrial park operated jointly by the ROK and the DPRK, but Pyongyang retracted approval for the trip at the last minute without explanation.

The UN spokesman's office said in a statement that it had no comment on the reported planned visit to Pyongyang. The statement said Ban has always declared his readiness to help enhance dialogue and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim has received a number of high-ranking Chinese officials in Pyongyang, including Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, who led a delegation from China to last month's celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea.

The event was also attended by delegations from the ruling parties of Cuba, Vietnam and Laos.

The ROK Foreign Ministry could not confirm the Yonhap report, and the Unification Ministry said Ban has not contacted the ROK government about any plan to visit the DPRK.

Since taking over the leadership following the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011, Kim Jong-un has yet to receive a single head of state.

Two UN secretaries-general have visited the DPRK in the past - Kurt Waldheim, in 1979; and, in 1993, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who met with then-leader Kim Il-sung.

AFP - Reuters

(China Daily 11/17/2015 page11)

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