Muddle Over UN Chief's N.Korea Visit

      November 19, 2015 12:10

      Ban Ki-moon

      There was head-scratching on Wednesday after conflicting media reports saying UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will or will not visit North Korea next week.

      China's state-run Xinhua News on Wednesday morning cited an unnamed official at the official [North] Korean Central News Agency as saying that Ban arrives in Pyongyang next Tuesday for a four-day visit.

      Six minutes later Xinhua corrected the arrival date to Monday, and another two hours later it quoted a UN official in Pyongyang confirming Ban’s visit.

      But the South Korean government had no such information. A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "I have yet to receive any confirmation of the timing of Ban's visit." A Foreign Ministry official here also declined to confirm the report pending official notice from the UN.

      On Wednesday afternoon, Reuters quoted UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric as denying the Xinhua report. He said Ban will spend most of next week in New York and then head to Malta for the Commonwealth Summit starting on Nov. 27, before a climate conference in Paris starting Nov. 30.

      Diplomatic sources said the conflicting reports suggest Ban has reached some sort of tentative agreement to visit North Korea soon, but not when.

      A UN source said, "It's not just the itinerary. It still has to be decided what form the visit will take, what the agenda will be, and who will accompany him. Without that it could just end up as a propaganda exercise for the North Korean regime."

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