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Did Ban Ki moon just announce his plans to seek a second term as U.N. secretary general?

Ban Ki moon has never been known as a straight talker.  But tonight he seemed to reach new heights of circumspection, seemingly declaring his intention to run for a second five-year term as secretary general without actually saying so. The revelation was buried in an official U.N. readout of a New Year’s day exchange Ban ...

Ban Ki moon has never been known as a straight talker.  But tonight he seemed to reach new heights of circumspection, seemingly declaring his intention to run for a second five-year term as secretary general without actually saying so.

The revelation was buried in an official U.N. readout of a New Year’s day exchange Ban had with South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak. In it, Ban  offers his best wishes to the South Korean president– the only leader to be so honored– underscoring the importance the U.N.’s South Korean secretary general continues to place in maintaining close ties with the government that helped promote his rise to the world’s top diplomatic job.

Ban’s readout–which was issued Saturday evening without fanfare and while most of the press corps was on holiday — seemed innocuous enough on first glance. Ban praised Seoul for its "active contribution to the work of the United Nations, including through an increase in overseas development assistance and greater participation in peace operations, as well as to global efforts to address climate change and promote green growth," according to the readout. Ban also lauded Lee for his "successful" hosting of a G-20 summit and for South Korea’s continued "economic and social development" in 2o10.

For good measure, the readout notes that  Ban and Lee discussed the crisis on the Korean peninsula.  Ban — who has been seeking a mediation role there since his first months as secretary general– said he appreciated Lee’s recent decision to try to resolve the nuclear standoff through the resumption of six-nation political talks, a move that effectively sidelines the U.N.  Still, Ban appeared hopeful, offering once again to "provide any assistance, as appropriate, in facilitating peace and stability in the region in close coordination with the concerned countries."

But down in the final sentence of the readout, Ban’s office blandly notes that the "secretary general looks forward to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit to be hosted by the ROK[Republic of Korea], an event which would significantly contribute to strengthening the global nuclear non-proliferation regime." A careful reader will recall that Ban’s first five-year term expires at the end of 2011, meaning he would need to be reelected in order to attend the Korean summit as secretary general.

Although Ban has signaled for months his intention to run for a second term, he has been declined to publicly announce his plans. Pressed on his intentions last month during a year-end press conference, Ban appealed for patience but said he would make his intention known soon. I’m not sure whether this counts.

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch

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