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Senior UN official in North Korea to meet top leaders

06 December 2017
Senior UN official in North Korea to meet top leaders

The United Nations has dispatched an envoy to North Korea for a rare visit aimed at defusing tensions over Pyongyang's intercontinental ballistic missile launch, as the US and South Korea began joint military exercises condemned by North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, center, poses with two unidentified accompanying colleagues upon arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017.

He is now said to be in Beijing ahead of his departure to the North.

It is an extremely rare move by the United Nations because it has been seven long years since a top diplomat from the global organization has visited North Korea.

AFP journalists saw Feltman arrive in a UN-flagged auto at the Chinese capital's worldwide airport in the morning.His trip comes a day after the United States and South Korea launched their biggest-ever joint air exercise -manoeuvres slammed by Pyongyang as an "all-out provocation". -South Korea joint air force exercise involving hundreds of fighter jets and tens of thousands of troops. The UN confirmed that he will be staying for four days, and will meet with several senior North Korean officials, including foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, and vice-minister Pak Myong Guk. Feltman's predecessor, Lynn Pascoe, visited the North in 2010.

He will also meet with the United Nations Country Team and members of the diplomatic corps, and visit UN project sites in DPRK, according to UN officials.

The U.N.is responding to a "long-standing invitation" from Pyongyang, but the visit comes at a time of great tension on the Korean Peninsula.

US President Donald Trump has engaged in months of tit-for-tat rhetoric with Kim, pejoratively dubbing him "Little Rocket Man" and a "sick puppy".