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U.N. Secretary General trip to North Korea cancelled

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during the 'UN Global Compact - Korea Leaders Summit' event in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Ban on Tuesday said that he will visit a factory park in North Korea that is the last major cooperation project between the rival Koreas.(Yun Dong-jin/Yonhap via AP) KOREA OUT
Yun Dong-jin, AP

SEOUL -- Amid rising tension on the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang cancelled a trip to the north by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, jeopardizing hopes of mending fences between North and South Korea, the U.N. chief told CBS News.

"Early this morning, the authorities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea informed us, through their diplomatic channels, that they were reversing their decision for me to visit the Kaesong Industrial Complex," Ban announced at an open meeting. "No explanation was given for this last-minute change. This decision by Pyongyang is deeply regrettable. However, I as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, will not spare any efforts to encourage the DPRK to work with the international community for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and beyond."

No other U.N. Secretary General has visited the north-based Kaesong Industrial complex, and only two, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kurt Waldheim, have visited the north, 22 years ago.

The South Korean U.N. chief's visit was intended to pave the way for increased cooperation at a time when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has purged his military, including the alleged assassination of his Defense Minister, and tested nuclear capable missiles.

Ban had announced his trip to North Korea while on a high level visit to Seoul, and he said that his intention was to show possible avenues of cooperation, since North Korea is under sanctions for its nuclear program and has urgent humanitarian needs.

The snub by North Korea is a clear blow to the Secretary General's attempts to open doors between North and South Korea at a time that the international community is increasingly worried about the erratic behavior of Pyongyang's Supreme Leader. Ban has offered to go to Pyongyang, but that offer has not been accepted. The now-cancelled visit to Kaesong had been approved by North Korea. The day before the cancellation, the Secretary General called the Kaesong Industrial complex a "win-win" model for both Koreas.

  • Pamela Falk

    Pamela Falk is CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst and an international lawyer, based at the United Nations.