Seoul expresses high hopes for United Nations official's Pyongyang trip

United Nations begins four-day visit to North Korea amid rising nuclear tensions

Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, left Beijing on Tuesday afternoon for a four-day trip to the North Korean capital, upon the invitation of regime officials, Yonhap reported.

Once in the North, Feltman will discuss "issues of mutual interest and concern" with officials, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding he was unable to say whether Feltman will meet with Kim.

Although Feltman does not represent the United States, hopes are high that visits by him or other diplomats, a senior Chinese official visited last month, might help relieve tensions that have been growing amid threats and taunts between Pyongyang and Washington.

Feltman, a former senior U.S. State Department official, is the highest-level United Nations official to visit North Korea since 2012. In response, U.S. President Donald Trump had threatened more unilateral sanctions, but so far, no resolution from the UN Security Council has been forthcoming.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said only that the visit will involve "wide-ranging policy discussion".

North Korea invited Feltman for a "policy dialogue" when Ri was in NY in September for the U.N. General Assembly, according to a U.N. spokesman.

Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho said the meeting will focus on finding peaceful ways to pressure North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests and denuclearize the Korean peninsula. But he said the invitation wasn't issued until November 30.

Feltman will also meet with the heads of various U.N. humanitarian programs operating in North Korea, including UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the U.N. Population Fund.

It will be Feltman's first visit to North Korea since he took office five years ago.

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