U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he
is encouraged by North Korea's apparent willingness to dismantle its
nuclear weapons. In an exclusive VOA interview, Mr. Ban discussed his back
stage role in the ongoing six-party talks on denuclearizing the Korean
peninsula. Correspondent Peter Heinlein spoke to the secretary-general,
and files this report.
As a former South Korean foreign
minister, Mr. Ban is intimately familiar with the six-party talks
involving South and North Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the United States. But since he took over as U.N. secretary-general
in January, he no longer has an active role in the talks.
Nevertheless, Mr. Ban told VOA he is watching developments carefully,
and working behind the scenes to ensure the success of efforts to
denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
"I have been closely monitoring, in my capacity as secretary-general of
the United Nations, using my experience and know-how dealing with the
North Korea nuclear issue," said Mr. Ban. "It was a very encouraging
development of the situation when the six parties have agreed on these
nuclear issues and denuclearization process."
Mr. Ban says his efforts include close contacts with many of the
principals in the six-party talks, which resumed Monday in Beijing.
"I have been trying my best, first, to facilitate the ongoing peace
process," said U.N. secretary-general. "I met the chief negotiator of the
"I have discussed this matter with Secretary of State, Dr. Rice, and
many other senior officials of other governments," he added.
The secretary-general said he was pleased at the landmark 'aid-for
disarmament' deal reached among the six parties February 13 in Beijing.
According to the terms of that deal, North Korea agreed to dismantle all
nuclear weapons and materials in return for economic and security
Secretary-General Ban called Pyongyang's decision to accept the deal
"It's always good for the parties to engage in direct dialogue in a
bilateral setting or a multilateral setting. And it is also encouraging
that North Korea has decided to engage in dialogue. It was I think a good
policy for them," Mr. Ban said.
The secretary-general also expressed satisfaction that the head of the
U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, has also had good
discussions with North Korean authorities about implementing the February
If followed, the agreement would lead to North Korea getting out of the
nuclear weapons business entirely, normalizing relations with longtime
enemies Japan and the United States, and possibly ending 53 years of
stalemate that has existed since the Korean War ended without a peace
But the chief U.S. delegate at the six-party talks, Assistant Secretary
of State Christopher Hill recently cautioned against being overly
optimistic about the early successes. He likened the process to a video
game that gets more and more difficult as you move on to higher and higher