Senior UN official to visit North Korea

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United Nations political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman will visit North Korea from Tuesday to Friday to meet with officials to discuss “issues of mutual interest and concern”.

Feltman, a former senior US State Department official, will meet with North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Vice Minister Pak Myong Guk, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Monday amid escalating tensions in the region.

“The visit is in response to a long-standing invitation from the authorities in Pyongyang for a policy dialogue with the UN,” Dujarric told reporters.

“He will also meet with the United Nations Country Team and members of the diplomatic corps, as well as visit UN project sites,” Dujarric told reporters, adding that Feltman was also visiting China.

The UN said it believed Feltman would be the first senior UN official to travel to North Korea since his predecessor Lynn Pascoe visited in February 2010 and former UN aid chief Valerie Amos visited in October 2011.

The US and South Korea went ahead with large-scale joint aerial drills on Monday, a move North Korea had said would push the Korean peninsula to “the brink of nuclear war”. Russia and China wanted the drills called off.

The exercises were conducted a week after Pyongyang said it had tested its most advanced long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the US. North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006 over its missile and nuclear programs.

At a UN Security Council meeting last week to discuss the missile test, UN ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned that while Washington does not seek war with Pyongyang, “if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”

Dujarric said the invitation for Feltman to visit was issued by North Korea on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the UN in New York in September, but confirmed only late last week.

When asked if Feltman was paving the way for a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Dujarric said: “We hope to have more afterwards.”

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