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South Korean Foreign Minister Willing to Visit North Korea as UN Chief


South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon says, if he becomes the next U.N. secretary-general, he will consider visiting North Korea to help resolve the standoff over its nuclear program.

Ban is expected to be confirmed as the next U.N. chief next week.

In an interview published by the Financial Times Friday, Ban said current Secretary-General Kofi Annan has made many contributions, but has not been able to visit North Korea during the past 10 years. Ban said he believes he is in a better position to handle the nuclear dispute, because he has a deeper understanding of the inter-Korean relationship.

His published comments come three days after Pyongyang announced it plans to test a nuclear weapon at an unspecified time in the future.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to approve a statement Friday urging North Korea to cancel any planned nuclear weapons test.

North Korea has said testing a weapon is a necessary defensive measure against the United States.

Washington has warned of "international repercussions" if North Korea goes ahead with a nuclear test, but stresses that the warning is not a lethal threat.

Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, said Friday Tokyo is stepping up monitoring of North Korea.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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