A U.N. envoy says time is of the essence to resolve tensions on the Korean Peninsula peacefully.
Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N.’s under-secretary-general for political affairs, visited North Korea this week, holding meetings with Foreign Minister Ri Yoing Ho and Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong Guk.
North Korean state media say the two sides have as a result agreed to communicate regularly.
KCNA, North Korea’s state run news service, said Saturday this latest development is a result of a Feltman’s recent four-day visit to the isolated nation.
Tense, dangerous security issue
A U.N. spokesperson said the three diplomats “exchanged views on the Korean Peninsula and agreed that the current situation was the most tense and dangerous peace and security issue in the world today.”
North Korean state media said Feltman’s visit “contributed to deepening the understanding between the DPRK and the U.N. Secretariat.”
DPRK is the abbreviation for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Feltman’s visit came right after the U.S. and South Korea launched their biggest, annual joint air exercises.
KCNA said Pyongyang considers the joint drills part of a U.S. “scheme to make a surprisingly preemptive nuclear strike” on North Korea.
Japan announced Sunday that it will hold a drill with the United States and South Korea this week to practice jointly tracking airborne missiles.
The drill will be held Monday and Tuesday in waters near Japan, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said.
UN project sites
In late November North Korea test-fired a powerful new intercontinental ballistic missile that experts say is capable of reaching the U.S. The new ICBM is one of several missile tests conducted by Pyongyang, along with a series of nuclear tests, in defiance of international sanctions.
The international community is “alarmed by escalating tension” on the Korean Peninsula, the U.N. spokesperson said, and “is committed to the achievement of a peaceful solution…”
North Korea is also concerned about the effects international sanctions have had on the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Feltman met with the U.N.’s country team and members of the diplomatic corps in North Korea. He also visited U.N. project sites, including a children’s foodstuff factory, a tuberculosis prevention institute, a breast tumor institute, and a children’s hospital.
“During the site visits, he learned about the U.N.’s life-saving work on the ground, as well as the challenges in procurement and funding gaps,” the U.N. said.
Feltman is the highest ranking U.N. official to visit North Korea since 2011.