UN chief Ban Ki Moon's spokesman says he's not visiting N. Korea next week despite Xinhua report

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon arriving at the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, on Nov 15.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon arriving at the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, on Nov 15.PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's schedule for next week does not include a trip to North Korea, according to an itinerary released by his spokesman, following a report by China's state-run Xinhua news agency on Wednesday (Nov 18) that Mr Ban will visit Pyongyang next week.

"The Secretary-General will not be travelling to the DPRK next week," the spokesman said, using the short-form name for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The statement released to Reuters said Mr Ban will be in New York and then Malta next week for the Commonwealth Summit, from where he will travel to Paris for the UN summit on climate change, which begins on Nov 30.

"He 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 statement added.

Xinhua said on Wednesday that Mr Ban would visit North Korea next Monday (Nov 23) and stay for about four days, citing the North's official KCNA news agency.

It was a correction to a story from Xinhua that had initially said he would visit on Tuesday.

On Monday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Mr Ban would visit the North Korean capital this week, citing an unnamed UN source.

The UN spokesman's office on Monday said it had no comment on the reportedly planned visit, but that Mr Ban has always said he is ready to play a role to help dialogue and peace on the Korean peninsula.

Two serving U.N. chiefs have traveled to the North.

Mr Kurt Waldheim visited the capital, Pyongyang, in 1979 and again in 1981, followed by Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993.

Mr Ban, a South Korean, had earlier this year made plans to visit an industrial park in the North operated jointly by the two Koreas.

But Pyongyang retracted approval for the trip at the last minute without explanation.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-1953 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The two Koreas in August held high-level talks to end a tense stand-off at their border and try to improve ties.