(United Nations) — Diplomatic sources at the United Nations tell Newsmax that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon may visit North Korea before the 2008 New York General Assembly convenes in September.
Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, would be the highest-ranking South Korean to visit North Korea since South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun made a high-profile trip by motorcade from Seoul last October.
That visit was only the second by a South Korean leader in more than 55 years.
For Ban, a central figure in the so-called "Sunshine Policy" of rapprochement (the policy emphasizes peaceful cooperation, seeking short-term reconciliation and eventual Korean reunification) with Pyongyang, a visit to the North would be a personal vindication of an idea that had been roundly rejected when the conservative Lee Myung-bak was elected president of South Korea last December.
Since assuming office in February, Lee has seen his popularity plummet over his government's decision to allow the re-importation of U.S. beef products that had been banned over fear of mad cow disease.
The North Korean government, seeking to capitalize on the easing of sanctions by the Bush White House, might decide to use Ban to explore other avenues not covered by the current nuclear negotiations.
One area of mutual interest in Washington is North Korea's counterfeit currency operations. The fake U.S. $100 bills have surfaced throughout East Asia and supposedly inside the U.S. itself, and the U.S. has been seeking ways to craock down on the counterfeiting.
U.S. government sources tell Newsmax that more than several hundred million dollars is believed to have been printed by the North Koreans. The bills are said to be of high quality.
Some of the fake cash made its way to U.N. aid workers in North Korea who unknowingly took it with them overseas. The money is believed to finance North Korean overseas operations in bootleg cigarettes, illicit drugs, and prostitution.
Questioned before his trip to the G-8 Summit in Tokyo, Ban would only tell reporters that he welcomed White House actions on North Korea but refused to respond to questions on whether he intended to follow-up on the U.S. actions with a visit to Pyongyang.
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