U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is willing to go to North Korea if it would help foster dialogue on Pyongyang's nuclear program. The U.N. chief also said he has made overtures to the authorities in the North on behalf of two imprisoned American journalists.  

Mr. Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, said he is concerned about the situation on the Korean peninsula, particularly since international talks about Pyongyang's nuclear program have broken down.

"I am also concerned that all the doors for dialogue have been shut by the DPRK authorities. At this time, however, while I believe that the Six Party Talks still can provide a good way for a solution through dialogue, if necessary, then there should be some other forms of dialogue," he said.

Mr. Ban told reporters at his monthly news conference Wednesday that he welcomed North Korea's recent offer to hold bilateral talks with the United States, saying dialogue is vital in any format and is the only way to resolve the nuclear issue.

But the United States said Monday any two-way talks could only be part of the Six Party Talks that include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

The U.N. chief said he is ready to use his good offices to help the process, and did not rule out a visit to North Korea.

"The situation in the Korean peninsula is very serious, and whatever I can do as secretary-general I am willing to do - including my own visit to Pyongyang at this time. However, I need to find out when would be an appropriate timing for me to visit," he said.

Asked if the United Nations has played any role in trying to free two American journalists imprisoned in Pyongyang, Mr. Ban said he has personally tried to help win their release.

"I have taken my own initiative, even though I am not able to disclose it," he said. "On two occasions I have conveyed my strong wish and appeal even, to DPRK authorities that they should look at this issue and release them, even on humanitarian grounds. That is what I have been doing now."

Mr. Ban said he could not disclose any more details about his efforts.

The two female reporters were found guilty of entering the country illegally in March and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.