A senior United Nations official on a rare high-level visit to North Korea held talks with the North’s foreign minister on Thursday. Jeffrey Feltman, the UN undersecretary-general for political affairs, met with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on the second full day of the highest-level UN visit to the North since 2010. He arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday for a stay expected to last four or five days.
It’s not immediately known what the two discussed. According to North Korea’s state-run media, Feltman discussed UN assistance and operations in North Korea along with “other matters of mutual concern” during a meeting with the vice foreign minister yesterday.
Six UN agencies, with about 50 international staff, are represented in the North. The visit by Feltman, an American citizen and former State Department official, comes amid high tensions on the peninsula fanned by tough talk and posturing by Pyongyang and Washington.
The North recently launched its most advanced missile to date and the US and South Korea are now holding joint exercises with some of the world’s most powerful fighter aircraft.
North Korea’s official news agency on Wednesday quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman strongly criticising senior US administration officials’ “bellicose remarks” and the ongoing military exercises.
“The remaining question now is: when will the war break out,” it said.
Though the North’s state media are prone to publishing alarmist rhetoric, North Korean authorities have regularly criticized the U.N. for its sanctions resolutions, insisting Pyongyang has the sovereign right to test missiles, nuclear devices and launch satellites.
In a speech to the UN General Assembly in September, Foreign Minister Ri defended his country’s missile and nuclear programs as a “righteous self-defensive measure” in the face of US hostility and nuclear threats.