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UN denies Secretary-General Ban will visit North Korea next week

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will not visit North Korea next week, a U.N. spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday after China’s Xinhua news agency reported that he will visit the North on Monday and stay for about four days.

The statement released by the spokesman’s office said Ban will be in New York and then travel to Malta for the Commonwealth Summit, which starts on Nov. 27. From there, he will travel to Paris for the U.N. summit on climate change, which begins on Nov. 30.

“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 Secretary-General 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.”

A report by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency on Wednesday citing North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said Ban would visit for about four days starting Monday, and that his itinerary was now being confirmed.

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

The North is under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions for its missile and nuclear tests, as well as separate U.S. and EU sanctions.

The U.N. spokesman’s office on Monday said it had no comment on the reported planned visit, but that 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. Kurt Waldheim visited the capital, Pyongyang, in 1979 and again in 1981, followed by Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993.

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.

Ban served as South Korea’s foreign minister from 2004 to 2006, a period of intense multinational negotiations aimed at ending the North’s nuclear programme. Those talks led to a 2005 deal that later fell apart.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

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

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Ben Blanchard; Writing by Tony Munroe and Jack Kim; Editing by Michael Perry and Ryan Woo)

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