The on again off again visit to North Korea by United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is on again. Mr Ban, was previously South Korea’s foreign minister.
North and South Korea have technically been at war since the 1950 to 1953 Korean War did not end with a peace treaty but rather with an armistice.
An anonymous UN spokesperson says the visit will take place later this week. It will be the first visit to North Korea by a UN chief for 20 years. There have only ever been three visits there by a UN secretary general.
The spokesperson says, “The Secretary-General has always said that he is ready to play any role in order to help enhance dialogue, stability and peace on the Korean Peninsula,” adding that there will be “no further comment” on the trip.
A visit scheduled in May was called off just one day before it was due to start without any explanation other than the Secretary General saying it was “deeply regrettable”. At the time, Mr. Ban said he wanted to promote reconciliation and “urge North Korea to co-operate with the international community”.
North Korea is facing heavy UN, European Union and U.S.sanctions for its nuclear tests and and for not agreeing to cease manufacture of atomic weapons and long range missiles.
If Ban’s visit does go ahead, it will include a meeting with North Korea’s controversial and erratic leader, 32 year old Kim Jong-un, as it is very unlikely a UN secretary general would visit a member state without meeting its leader.
Korea watchers say Ban’s trip could be the breakthrough in the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and strained ties between the two Koreas and the U.S which has a large military presence in South Korea.