UN chief Ban Ki Moon to visit North Korea: Yonhap

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon arrives for the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, on Nov 15, 2015.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon arrives for the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, on Nov 15, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL ( AFP) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon plans to visit North Korea this week, the first head of the world body to set foot in the isolated state for more than 20 years, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported on Monday (Nov 16).

Citing an unidentified high-level UN source, Yonhap said Mr 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 the UN chief was almost certain to meet 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 the supreme leader of the UN member state," the source said.

Mr 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 Mr 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 - Mr Kurt Waldheim in 1979 and, in 1993, Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali who met then leader Kim Il Sung to discuss tensions over its nuclear ambitions.

It will not be Mr 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.