Wed, Dec 06, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Senior UN official in Pyongyang for talks

AFP, BEIJING

UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affair Jeffrey Feltman, left, yesterday shakes hands with a North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs official at Pyongyang International Airport.

Photo: AFP

A senior UN official traveled to North Korea yesterday for a rare visit aimed at defusing soaring tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman’s visit — the first by a UN diplomat of his rank since 2010 — comes less than a week after North Korea said it test-fired a new ballistic missile capable of reaching the US.

Feltman arrived in a UN-flagged car at Beijing Capital International Airport in the morning before North Korea’s Air Koryo flight took off for Pyongyang in the early afternoon.

His trip comes a day after the US and South Korea launched their biggest-ever joint air exercise — slammed by Pyongyang as an “all-out provocation.” The five-day Vigilant Ace drill involves 230 aircraft, including F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters, and tens of thousands of troops, sources said.

Feltman was to discuss “issues of mutual interest and concern” with officials, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding he could not say if Feltman would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

It is Feltman’s first visit to the North since he took office five years ago.

In an editorial on Tuesday, North Korean state media blasted the joint US-South Korean drills as going “beyond the danger line,” adding the two allies were like “a group of tiger moths flying into fire only to perish in it.”

This year’s war games involve simulated precision attacks on the North’s military installations, including its missile launch sites and artillery units, Yonhap news agency said, citing unnamed Seoul sources.

In related developments, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov is expected to discuss the North Korean crisis with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when they meet in Vienna this week, RIA news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying in Moscow.

The two men are scheduled to be in Vienna for a two-day ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe that starts on Thursday.

Additional reporting by agencies and staff writer

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