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UN Official Begins Rare Diplomatic Mission to North Korea


U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, center, walks upon arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Dec. 5, 2017.

A high-ranking United Nations official has arrived in North Korea to help lower tensions over the secretive regime's nuclear and ballistic missile testing programs.

Jeffrey Feltman, the world body's undersecretary-general for political affairs, left for Pyongyang Tuesday after a stopover in Beijing the day before. Feltman is the first U.N. official holding that rank to visit the isolated regime since his predecessor, Lynn Pascoe, in 2010.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday that Feltman will discuss "issues of mutual interest and concern" with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Vice Minister Pak Myong Guk during his visit, which ends on Friday.

Feltman's visit comes less than a week after Pyongyang announced it had successfully test fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the U.S. mainland. The launch heightened tensions between the North and the United States, highlighted by months of insults between the regime and President Donald Trump.

The visit also coincides with a joint U.S.-South Korea air force exercise that began Monday.

Dujarric said Pyongyang issued an invitation for Feltman to visit back in September, during the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly.

Feltman will also meet with the heads of various U.N. humanitarian programs operating in North Korea, including UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the U.N. Population Fund. But Dujarric would not say if Feltman would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his trip.