UN envoy 'willing to ease Korea tensions'

The UN political affairs chief expressed willingness to ease tension on the Korean peninsula during a visit to North Korea this week, state media says, amid a rising war of words over the North’s missile and nuclear programmes.
A KCNA photo of North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho meeting Mr Jeffrey Feltman, the UN's undersecretary-general for political affairs, in Pyongyang last week.
A KCNA photo of North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho meeting Mr Jeffrey Feltman, the UN's undersecretary-general for political affairs, in Pyongyang last week.PHOTO: REUTERS

N. Korea says UN official also acknowledges negative impact of sanctions on aid to country

SEOUL • The UN's political affairs chief expressed willingness to ease tension on the Korean peninsula during a visit to North Korea, state media said yesterday, amid a rising war of words over Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programmes.

North Korea also said in a statement carried by its official KCNA that the UN envoy acknowledged the negative impact of sanctions on humanitarian aid to the country.

Mr Jeffrey Feltman, the highest-level UN official to visit North Korea since 2012, did not speak to reporters when he arrived back at Beijing airport yesterday morning.

"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 international peace and security," the news agency said.

North Korea is pursuing nuclear and missile weapons programmes in defiance of UN sanctions and international condemnation.

On Nov 29, it test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile which it said was its most advanced yet, capable of reaching the mainland US.

The United States and South Korea conducted large-scale military drills last week, which the North said had made the outbreak of war "an established fact".

KCNA also said North Korean officials and Mr Feltman agreed his visit helped deepen understanding and that they agreed to communicate regularly.

Last month's missile test prompted a warning from the US that North Korea's leadership would be "utterly destroyed" if war were to break out.

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea and the US, and says its weapons programmes are necessary to counter American aggression. The US stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Yesterday, North Korea also lambasted US President Donald Trump for recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital, renewing its description of him as a "dotard" in a statement released on state media.

Mr Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un have traded threats of war and personal insults in recent months

The hermit state has joined in the near-universal condemnation of the US President's decision on Jerusalem, calling it a "reckless, wicked act".

"Considering the fact that the mentally deranged dotard openly called for a total destruction of a sovereign state at the UN, this action is not so surprising," KCNA quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

Meanwhile, speaking at an academic forum, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the situation on the Korean peninsula had entered a vicious circle of shows of strength and confrontation.

"But at the same time, it can be seen that hopes for peace have yet to extinguished. The prospects for negotiations still exist, and the option of resorting to force cannot be accepted," Mr Wang was quoted as saying.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 10, 2017, with the headline 'UN envoy 'willing to ease Korea tensions''. Print Edition | Subscribe