November 23, 2015 / 11:25 PM / 2 years ago

U.N. chief Ban says 'positive signs' from Pyongyang on North Korea visit

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attends the 10th East Asia Summit at the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 22, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

SEOUL (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he was discussing with North Korea the dates for his visit to the isolated state but no decision has been made in his first public comments on the trip since news reports last week said he would go soon.

Ban, who is South Korean, said he received “positive signs” from Pyongyang recently following his talks with the North’s foreign minister, in comments made to South Korean reporters at the United Nations and carried by YTN TV early on Tuesday.

“We are discussing when would be the good time for me to visit the North, but so far nothing has been decided,” he said, adding he is working to make the trip “at the earliest time.”

The United Nations had denied news reports about Ban’s visit to Pyongyang last week or this week.

If Ban’s visit does take place, he is expected to discuss U.N. sanctions against the North and its nuclear weapons program, analysts have said.

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.

Ban had earlier this year made plans to visit an industrial park in the North operated jointly by the two Koreas. But Pyongyang withdrew 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 program. 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.

Reporting by Jack Kim and Jee Heun Kahng; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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