UN Official Begins Rare Diplomatic Mission to North Korea

UN Official Begins Rare Diplomatic Mission to North Korea

Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N. under secretary-general for political affairs, will meet with North Korean officials, including North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, to discuss "issues of mutual interest and concern", according to the U.N. He will attempt to defuse growing tensions as North Korea pushes ahead with its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program.

The last visit by a senior United Nations official was when Valerie Amos, then United Nations aid chief, travelled to the country in October 2011. It will be a wide ranging discussion.

AFP journalists saw Feltman arrive in a UN-flagged auto at the Chinese capital's worldwide airport in the morning.His trip comes a day after the United States and South Korea launched their biggest-ever joint air exercise -manoeuvres slammed by Pyongyang as an "all-out provocation".

Feltman's trip marks the first high-ranking visit to the North by a United Nations official since his predecessor Lynn Pascoe traveled there in February 2010 and former United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos visited the North in October 2011. Previously he served as US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

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The most senior American to visit North Korea in an official capacity recently was James R. Clapper, who as director of national intelligence traveled to Pyongyang in late 2014 to secure the release of two American citizens.

Feltman's visit comes amid high tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Hopes of China making a difference by wielding its considerable economic influence over its neighbor dimmed after a special envoy sent by President Xi Jinping in November failed to secure a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Feltman's predecessor, Lynn Pascoe, visited the North in 2010.

Six U.N. agencies, with approximately 50 worldwide staff, are represented in North Korea.

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