U.N. envoy gets North Korean foreign minister's "enthusiastic welcome"
PYONGYANG (Kyodo) -- The U.N. political affairs chief received a warm welcome on Thursday as he held talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, with Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs likely high on the agenda.
"I would give an enthusiastic welcome to your Pyongyang visit," Ri, North Korea's former top nuclear negotiator who became foreign minister last year, told U.N. Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.
The rare trip to North Korea by a high-ranking U.N. official comes as tensions continue to mount in the region after the country test-fired a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that it says is capable of striking anywhere in the United States.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency only reported Ri met with Feltman, without providing any information about what they discussed.
Feltman, a former senior U.S. State Department official, arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday for a five-day visit. He is the most senior U.N. official to visit North Korea in more than six years.
On Wednesday, Feltman discussed assistance of U.N. agencies to North Korea and other issues of mutual interest with the country's Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong Guk, according to KCNA. Also, according to the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang, he met with Ambassador Alexander Matsegora and both sides agreed on the importance of resuming dialogue on the nuclear issue at an early date.
North Korea invited Feltman for a "policy dialogue" when Ri was in New York in September for the U.N. General Assembly, according to a U.N. spokesman.
When North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump were exchanging personal insults and threats of war, Ri told reporters that his country could test a powerful hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.
Feltman's trip is being closely watched to see whether it will influence North Korea to curb its incendiary behavior and draw the United Nations into a role as mediator in the increasingly tense situation, especially between Pyongyang and Washington.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert has said Feltman is not visiting Pyongyang on behalf of Washington.
"He's not traveling -- I want to make this clear -- with any kind of message from the U.S. government," she told reporters on Tuesday during a press briefing.
North Korea has suggested its readiness to come to the negotiation table if the United States agrees to recognize it as a nuclear weapon state.
But the United States has said it is not interested in talks with North Korea until it abandons its nuclear ambitions.
While seeking a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue, the Trump administration continues to call for more pressure on North Korea.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley urged all countries to completely cut ties with North Korea in an emergency meeting of the 15-member Security Council last week that followed the country's third ICBM test.
Haley said that with the missile launch, North Korean leader Kim has made a choice "that brings the world closer to war, not farther from it."
"We have never sought war with North Korea and still today we do not seek it," she said. "And if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed."