United Nations faces uphill course to broker North Korea talks

It'll be the first time a senior United Nations official has visited the reclusive state since the former United Nations aid chief, Valerie Amos, visited in October 2011 and it comes as tensions have been renewed after Pyongyang test fired its latest, most powerful ballistic missile yet last week.

Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N.'s undersecretary general for political affairs, arrived in Pyongyang earlier in the day on a four-day visit that includes talks with Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho.

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

Feltman will be in the country till Friday for a wide-ranging discussion on policy issues with North Korean authorities and analyse "issues of mutual interest and concern", Efe news quoted Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as saying on Monday night.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries are holding a major air force exercise and just last week Pyongyang test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that experts say could hit Washington.

Feltman, the highest-ranking American in the U.N. Secretariat, is the first person in that post to visit North Korea since February 2010.

Pyongyang sent tensions soaring 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.

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".

On Monday, the US and South Korea launched their biggest-ever joint air exercise - maneuvers slammed by Pyongyang as an "all-out provocation".

  • Delores Daniels