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UN envoy visits NK aiming to defuse nuclear tension
Senior UN envoy Jeffrey Feltman (left) shakes hands with an official from the North Korean Foreign Ministry after arriving at Pyongyang International Airport yesterday. Feltman’s visit comes less than a week after North Korea said it test-fired a new ballistic missile capable of reaching the US. Photo: AFP
A senior United Nations official arrived in North Korea yesterday for a rare visit aimed at defusing soaring tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
The visit of Jeffrey Feltman, UN’s under secretary general for political affairs — 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 United States.
Feltman shook hands with a North Korean foreign ministry official after flying into Pyongyang from Beijing on North Korea’s Air Koryo. His trip comes a day after the US and South Korea launched their biggest-ever joint air exercise — maneuvers 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, Seoul’s air force said.
Feltman arrived in China on Monday as Beijing is one of the few transit points to North Korea in the world.
China is pleased to see the UN play a constructive role in helping to resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said yesterday.
While in Beijing, Feltman met Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong, and the two exchanged views on UN affairs and issues of common concern, Geng said. China has called on the US to freeze military drills and North Korea to halt weapons tests to calm tensions.
While in North Korea, Feltman will discuss “issues of mutual interest and concern” with officials, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding he was unable to say whether the envoy will meet the state’s leader Kim Jong-Un.
The UN Security Council has hit North Korea with a package of sanctions over its increasingly powerful missile and nuclear tests, which have rattled the US and its allies South Korea and Japan.
North Korea ramped up already high tensions on the Korean Peninsula six days ago when it announced it had successfully test-fired a new ICBM, which it says brings the whole of the continental US within range.
Analysts say it is unclear whether the missile survived re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere or could successfully deliver a warhead to its target — key technological hurdles for Pyongyang.
A Cathay Pacific crew flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong said they spotted what they believed was the missile, with one airline official saying the crew described seeing it “blow up and fall apart.”
In recent years, Pyongyang has accelerated its drive to bring together nuclear and missile technology capable of threatening the US, which it accuses of hostility.
US President Donald Trump has engaged in months of tit-for-tat rhetoric with Kim, pejoratively dubbing him “Little Rocket Man” and a “sick puppy.”
North Korean media yesterday 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.”
Over the weekend Trump’s National Security Adviser HR McMaster told a security forum that the potential for war with North Korea “is increasing every day.”

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