United Nations envoy not carrying U.S. government message on North Korea visit

UN envoy arrives in North Korea as nuclear tensions soar

The United Nations has dispatched an envoy to North Korea for a rare visit aimed at defusing tensions over Pyongyang's intercontinental ballistic missile launch, as the US and South Korea began joint military exercises condemned by North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.

UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will arrive in North Korea on Tuesday to meet authorities of the Pyongyang regime, according to an official statement.

"We're certainly aware of his travels under the auspices of his role with the United Nations to North Korea", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

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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 USA mainland.

Feltman, the highest-ranking American in the U.N. Secretariat, is the first person in that post to visit North Korea since February 2010.

Once in the North, Feltman will discuss "issues of mutual interest and concern" with officials, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding he was unable to say whether Feltman will meet with Kim.

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The U.N.is responding to a "long-standing invitation" from Pyongyang, but the visit comes at a time of great tension on the Korean Peninsula. The visit was first said to have been discussed on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, but not confirmed until recently. The launch heightened tensions between the North and the United States, highlighted by months of insults between the regime and President Donald Trump.

Over the weekend, Pyongyang countered that Washington was "begging for nuclear war" as the North blasted the joint US- South Korean drills.

The UN envoy is also planning to see foreign diplomats and UN workers in the North on humanitarian missions, Dujarric said.

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