South Korea's foreign minister -- the favorite to become the next UN secretary-general -- vowed yesterday to pursue crucial reforms of the world body if elected, and seek a peaceful resolution to North Korea's nuclear standoff.
Ban Ki-moon, 62, cemented his position to succeed Kofi Annan after an informal poll held on Monday by the 15 UN Security Council members showed that 14 -- including the five veto-wielding members -- had voted in favor of Ban. He received one "no opinion" by one of the 10 rotating members.
Ban was the only one to escape a veto, while each of the five other candidates received at least one "no" vote from the five permanent members of the Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.
"I am deeply grateful for the trust and support the Security Council nations have shown to me. For me, personally, it is a great honor," Ban told South Korean reporters yesterday.
"At the same, I feel a great responsibility since the UN has many roles to play for [the] peace and security of the international community as well as human rights protection and development," he added.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday congratulated Ban "for the good results," Roh's office said. During a telephone conversation, Roh encouraged Ban to "do his best throughout the remaining procedures."
China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya (
UN Undersecretary-General Shashi Tharoor -- the biggest known threat to Ban's campaign -- dropped out of the race after Monday's informal poll showed that Ban was the clear winner.
Japan's foreign minister Taro Aso said it would be "good" for Ban to become the next UN chief because Japan wants an Asian to take the post next, the Kyodo News agency reported yesterday.
In Seoul, Ban said that if elected, he would push for reform of the UN, which has been criticized for its ineffectiveness in dealing with global issues.
"There have been many changes around the world during the past 60 years ... various threats that we have not experienced in the past," Ban said.
"So it is true that there have been doubts and criticism over whether the UN has responded appropriately and effectively," he added.
"The UN has a great task to exercise a more positive, efficient and effective leadership to manage well the challenges and tasks of the 21st century through reform," he said.
Ban also pledged to help resolve the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program, saying he would use his expertise "to give a boost to issues concerning peace and security of the Korean Peninsula."