Senior UN official to visit North Korea this week

Senior UN official to visit North Korea this week

Senior UN official to visit North Korea this week

The United Nations has dispatched an envoy to North Korea for a rare visit aimed at defusing tensions over Pyongyang's intercontinental ballistic missile launch, as the US and South Korea began joint military exercises condemned by North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.

A senior United Nations official who is visiting North Korea was not carrying a message from the US government, the State Department said Tuesday.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, center, poses with two unidentified accompanying colleagues upon arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017.

From Dec. 5 to 8, Feltman, a former U.S. State Department official, will meet a number of officials including Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

He is now said to be in Beijing ahead of his departure to the North.

UN envoy arrives in North Korea as nuclear tensions soar

Feltman arrived in China as Beijing is one of the few transit points to North Korea in the world.

Pyongyang ramped up already high tensions on the Korean Peninsula five days ago when it announced it had successfully test-fired a new ICBM, which it says brings the whole of the continental United States within range.

The spokesman said that Feltman's trip was in response to an invitation extended by the North during the UN General Assembly in September, adding the visit was fixed late last week. The spokesperson added that the Under-Secretary will meet with some of the 50 members of staff working for the 6 United Nations agencies in North Korea, and will visit some of the United Nations projects himself.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, have traded insults and engaged in escalating rhetoric in recent months.

Over the weekend, Pyongyang countered that Washington was "begging for nuclear war" as the North blasted the joint US- South Korean drills.

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