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(LEAD) N. Korean FM could visit New York for signing of U.N. climate deal: sources

All News 06:05 April 12, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with U.S. State Department declining to confirm; ADDS to dateline)

SEOUL/WASHINGTON, April 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong could visit New York next week to attend the signing of a landmark U.N. climate agreement, diplomatic sources said.

The U.N. plans to hold a high-level signing ceremony on April 22 for the so-called Paris Agreement adopted in December to replace the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and the North's Ri could attend the ceremony, the sources said.

Ri attended the Paris conference and delivered a speech there.

"Somebody from North Korea will be going there for the signing," a source said, adding that Ri is likely to attend the ceremony as he represented the North at the Paris conference.

His visit to New York, if realized, would mark the first time since tensions spiked following the North's fourth nuclear test in January, its long-range rocket launch in February and the adoption of a new U.N. sanctions resolution.

The trip could provide opportunities for Ri to hold talks with U.S. officials, though such chances are low considering the international community's ongoing efforts to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

In Washington, the State Department declined to confirm if Ri's planning to visit New York or whether the department has issued a visa for him.

"Visa records are confidential under section 222f of the Immigration and Nationality Act. We are unable to disclose information from individual visa cases," Gabrielle Price, a department spokeswoman, told Yonhap News Agency, referring queries to the U.N.

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