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(4th LD) Senior U.N. official in N. Korea for 'policy dialogue'

All News 19:41 December 05, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with arrival in first 8 paras; CHANGES headline)

NEW YORK/SEOUL/BEIJING, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- A senior United Nations official arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday for talks with North Korean officials amid heightened tensions over the communist nation's recent long-range missile test.

Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N.'s undersecretary general for political affairs, and his party arrived in the communist nation, the North's official news agency KCNA said in a one-sentence report. There were no more details given.

The U.N. earlier said he will discuss "issues of mutual interest and concern" with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and others during his four-day trip there.

"The visit is in response to a longstanding invitation from the authorities in Pyongyang for policy dialogue with the U.N.," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters, according to multiple news reports. "It will be a wide-ranging discussion."

He will meet with North Korean government officials, U.N. officials and the diplomatic corps there as well, the spokesman said.

Feltman's visit comes a week after North Korea test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile that it claims is capable of striking anywhere on the U.S. mainland.

The North declared that it has completed its "state nuclear force" with the Hwasong-15 development.

Leaving Beijing on a North Korean Air Koryo passenger jet earlier in the day, Feltman made no comment when asked by reporters for details about his trip.

This photo, taken by AFP on Dec. 4, 2017, shows Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N. undersecretary general for political affairs, who will visit North Korea this week. (Yonhap)

Feltman's trip marks the first high-ranking visit by a U.N. official to North Korea since his predecessor Lynn Pascoe traveled to the North in February 2010 and former U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos went there in October 2011.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon planned to visit the now-shuttered inter-Korean industrial complex in North Korea's border city of Kaesong in May 2015, but the North abruptly canceled its approval for the trip.

Experts expect that Feltman's visit may set the tone for Pyongyang to come to the negotiation table.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed his willingness to serve as a mediator to resolve the problem of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

South Korea's foreign ministry welcomed the move, hoping that the trip will help deliver the international community's wish for the North to stop provocations and threats, and take the path toward denuclearization.

Seoul's unification ministry also voiced hope that Feltman's trip could help the North change its course.

"We hope that the visit can pave the way for North Korea to come to dialogue," said a ministry official said, asking not to be named.

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