Seoul expresses high hopes for U.N. official's Pyongyang trip

By Jennie Oh  |  Dec. 5, 2017 at 2:25 PM
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SEOUL, South Korea, Dec. 5 -- Seoul has expressed high hopes for a senior U.N. official's rare visit to Pyongyang on Tuesday, amid rising tensions following North Korea's ICBM test launch last week.

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.

Feltman is set to discuss a wide range of "issues of mutual interest and concern" with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and other high-ranking officials, a U.N. spokesman said Monday.

The political chief will also visit various U.N. officials and missions operating in the reclusive state. Feltman's trip marks the first high-ranking visit to the North by a U.N. official since his predecessor Lynn Pascoe traveled there in February 2010 and former U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos visited the North in October 2011.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it hopes the U.N. chief will "convey the resolve and commitment of the international community's in stopping the North's threats and provocations".

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has, on various occasions, voiced his interest in serving as a mediator to resolve the North's nuclear issue.

Seoul's Unification Ministry said the high-level trip could be an occasion to lay the groundwork for dialogue with the North, JoongAng Ilbo reported.

Seoul has maintained a two-track policy of enforcing stringent sanctions on North Korea, in response to its provocations, while keeping a door open for dialogue and humanitarian assistance.

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