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Ban calls for nuke-free world

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called for greater efforts to remove all nuclear weapons from the world.

"Now is the time to intensify our efforts to rid the world of these most destructive weapons," he said in a video message to a South Korea-U.N. joint conference on disarmament and non-proliferation issues.

The forum's agenda, which includes talks over North Korea's nuclear weapons program and the implications of the nuclear deal between Iran and global powers, addresses issues that are "most vital to regional and global security," he said.

Last month, Ban confirmed a Yonhap report that he is planning a trip to the North. The plan has drawn keen attention as he's expected to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

"Talks are continuing," Kim Won-soo, the U.N. acting high representative for disarmament affairs, told reporters on the sidelines of the conference. "We are still in talks, and (the visit) hasn't been decided yet."

Kim has been a close aide to Ban, previously serving as special adviser and deputy chef de cabinet to the secretary-general.

"We will let you know through our spokesman once there is progress," he added.

Should Ban's trip be realized, he will be the third U.N. secretary-general to visit North Korea after Kurt Waldheim in 1979 and Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993. Both Waldheim and Boutros-Ghali met with North Korea's founding leader, Kim Il-sung, during their visits to Pyongyang.

Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, has repeatedly said that he will do everything possible to promote inter-Korean reconciliation and a resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue. (Yonhap)