United Nations official's visit to North Korea raises questions about sanctions

Saul Bowman
December 11, 2017

After the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Mr Feltman met senior North Koreans all agreed "the current situation was the most tense and risky peace and security issue in the world today", according to the statement.

Their meeting came at a particularly tense time - a week after North Korea tested an advance long-range missile and South Korea conducted military drills with its ally, the United States.

The UN diplomat Feltman noted that there is a need to "prevent miscalculations and open channels to reduce the risks of conflict".

Feltman did not speak to reporters upon arriving back from Pyongyang at Beijing airport on Saturday morning after spending four days in North Korea.

Tensions over the North's weapons programme were raised further after a fresh ballistic missile test last week.

Feltman, who visited several UN-assisted health and food production facilities in North Korea, acknowledged that the sanctions imposed on the country "are negatively affecting the humanitarian assistance" and expressed his intention "to strive for cooperation in keeping with the humanitarian mission", according to KCNA.

Feltman emphasized to Pyongyang the need to respect Security Council resolutions and said there can only be a diplomatic solution through "sincere dialogue".

No official decision has been made yet, but the White House said that security concerns will be taken into consideration.

Though the North's state media are prone to publishing alarmist rhetoric, North Korean authorities have regularly criticised the United Nations for its sanctions resolutions, insisting Pyongyang has the sovereign right to test missiles, nuclear devices and launch satellites.

"The United Nations expressed concerns over the heightened situation on the Korean peninsula and expressed willingness to work on easing tensions on the Korean peninsula in accordance with the UN Charter which is based on global peace and security", KCNA said.

North Korea remains technically at war with its neighbor South Korea after the Korean War ended in armistice but not peace in 1953.

North Korea blamed U.S.

China has repeatedly called for a de-escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, including a freeze in the North Korean nuclear program in exchange for the halt of United States and South Korean military drills.

"But at the same time it can be seen that hopes for peace have yet to extinguished".

A senior United Nations official left Pyongyang on Saturday after four days of talks with the North Korean Foreign Ministry.

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