UN envoy in Seoul for nuclear talks ahead of N.Korea trip

SEOUL: UN chief Ban Ki-moon's top political adviser Lynn Pascoe arrived in Seoul Saturday for talks on North Korea's nuclear programme ahead of a visit to Pyongyang.

Pascoe, the UN under secretary general for political affairs, is scheduled to visit the North Korean capital from February 9 to 12 as part of a four-nation tour also including China and Japan, Ban's press office said.

"I'm here today to talk with (South Koreans) about the UN relationship with the ROK (South Korea)," Pascoe told journalists before he met South Korea's chief delegate to six-party nuclear disarmament talks, Wi Sung-Lac, and Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan.

"And we'll talk about regional issues," Pascoe added, declining to elaborate.

Seoul's Yonhap news agency said the UN envoy would discuss issues related to North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and humanitarian aid.

The United Nations wanted to send envoys to Pyongyang early last year but North Korea rejected the offer, Yonhap said.

On the North Korean leg of his trip, Pascoe plans to hold wide-ranging talks on all issues of mutual interest with senior officials, Ban's press office said.

In September, Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, met North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Park Gil Yon at UN headquarters and discussed the North's nuclear weapons as well as humanitarian and human rights issues.

Pyongyang has been under growing international pressure to return to nuclear disarmament talks that the communist state has boycotted for nine months.

The UN slapped harsher sanctions on the North following its missile and nuclear tests last year and the economy of the communist state has been hit by the measures, which toughened restrictions on weapons exports.

The nation has relied on foreign aid to feed its people since it suffered a devastating famine in the 1990s.

The United Nations could decide to ease sanctions if there is substantial progress on the talks which group the two Koreas, the US, Russia, China and Japan.

But before rejoining, the North has demanded an end to sanctions and talks on a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War.