The UN Security Council yesterday nominated South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon as its choice to succeed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, its president announced.
Japan's UN Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, the president of the 15-member council this month, said council members formally recommended that the General Assembly appoint Ban.
The council voted by acclamation behind closed doors. Ban's six rivals had withdrawn from the race earlier.
Annan's 10 years in office expire on Dec. 31.
The 192-member General Assembly must give final approval to Ban's nomination, which usually follows within a week or two. That vote is expected to be positive.
Shortly after the vote for Ban, the 15 Security Council ambassadors went into closed consultations on North Korea to see what action could be taken after the country reported making a successful nuclear weapon test.
"I think the fact the candidate is current foreign minister of the Republic of Korea is an asset in dealing with the situation in the Korean Peninsula that we are now facing," Oshima told reporters.
"We have a very good candidate," he said. "It was the collective decision of the Security Council to recommend Mr. Ban Ki-moon to the General Assembly."
Some diplomats, including Oshima, have speculated that North Korea's announcement on Oct. 3 of plans to carry out the underground nuclear test was timed, in part, to coincide with Ban's candidacy in an effort to get world attention.
Annan, in his own statement, welcomed the nomination.
Annan said he had the "highest respect" for Ban and would do "everything possible to ensure a smooth transition," a spokesman said.
Among his colleagues in Seoul, everyone seems to agree that Ban is pleasant and hard-working.
Jang Sung-min, a former presidential aide and member of parliament said, "He probably won't do a bad job. It is really hard to think of a problem with Ban. Maybe that's his strong point -- that there's nothing peculiar about him."
Although Annan was criticized regularly in the US, Europeans viewed him more favorably and many so far have ignored the imminent arrival of Ban.
Ban said his nomination was an honor, but came at a difficult time.
"This should be a moment of joy, but instead I stand here with a very heavy heart," Ban told reporters in Seoul.
"Despite the concerted warning from the international community, North Korea has gone ahead with a nuclear test," he said.