The Koreas

Top UN Official to Visit North Korea

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs will visit North Korea in a rare visit.

Top UN Official to Visit North Korea
Credit: DFID – UK Department for International Development

A top United Nations official will make a rare visit to North Korea this week at the invitation of the North Korean government.

Jeffrey Feltman, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, will visit North Korea from December 5 to December 8, according to a United Nations press release.

“Feltman will discuss with DPRK officials issues of mutual interest and concern,” the UN press release noted.

“He will also meet with the United Nations Country Team and members of the diplomatic corps, as well as visit UN project sites.”

While in North Korea, Feltman will meet with senior North Korean leaders, but will not meet with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. He will meet North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and other officials.

Feltman’s visit to North Korea comes after the country’s latest launch of an intercontinental-range ballistic missile, which took place on November 29. The new missile, known as the Hwasong-15, is North Korea’s largest to date.

The UN delegation’s visit also comes after multiple rounds of UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea for its ballistic missile tests and its test of a claimed thermonuclear device in September. North Korea has condemned the latest Security Council sanctions as unjust and illegal.

Following North Korea’s launch of the Hwasong-15, Feltman spoke at the emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss the launch.

“Given the grave risks associated with any military confrontation, in exercise of its primary responsibility the Security Council needs to do all it can to prevent an escalation,” Feltman said.

“Unity in the Security Council is critical. Security Council unity also creates an opportunity for sustained diplomatic engagement – an opportunity that must be seized in these dangerous times to seek off-ramps and work to create conditions for negotiations,” he added.

“The DPRK’s repeated nuclear and missile tests over the past two years have created great tension on the Korean Peninsula and beyond. This dynamic must be reversed. The solution can only be political.”

It is unclear if Feltman’s trip to North Korea could indicate an expanded mediatory role for the United Nations between the United States and North Korea.

Despite rising tensions between the two sides, they do not maintain active military-to-military channels, which were once in place at the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric described Feltman’s trip as part of a “policy dialogue” with North Korea, cautioning that the world would have to “wait and see what comes out.”