UN chief ready to visit Pyongyang to restart Korean nuclear talks
UNITED NATIONS, March 15 (RIA Novosti) - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he is ready to visit North Korea if it helps to restart the six-party talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
"I myself, as secretary general, will do whatever I can to facilitate the resumption of the six-party talks, so that the six-party talks' members will be able to discuss the denuclearization process of the Korean Peninsula," Ban told RIA Novosti in an exclusive interview.
"When and if an opportunity arises, I'm prepared to visit Pyongyang myself," added the secretary general, who is due to start a three-day visit to Moscow on Wednesday.
The South Korean, who is the second Asian to head the United Nations, said he had been encouraged by recent diplomatic moves on the peninsula.
"Lynn Pascoe's visit as my special envoy to the DPRK [North Korea] was quite encouraging. It was the first such high-level dialogue with DPRK authorities since 2004. The dialogue and partnership between the United Nations and DPRK should further be strengthened," Ban said.
He said the country "and its people are suffering from difficult economic situation," and described the humanitarian situation as "very worrisome," declaring that the UN was ready to send assistance, and could cooperate with Pyongyang in other areas as well.
The six-party talks, involving North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States, came to a halt last April when Pyongyang pulled out of the negotiations in protest against the United Nations' condemnation of its missile tests.
The North has hinted it would be willing to return to the talks, but insists it first negotiate directly with the United States to repair "hostile relations."
Russia considers the resumption of the six-party talks essential, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in late December that the prospects for a return to the negotiating table had improved slightly.
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