United Nations Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman visited North Korea from December 5 through 8 to open a channel of communication with the country. The last time a UN official of his level visited North Korea was in 2011.
Following Feltman’s visit on December 9, the UN released a statement that emphasized its commitment to finding peaceful ways to resolve the U.S.-North Korea conflict:
Noting the urgent need to prevent miscalculations and open channels to reduce the risks of conflict, Mr. Feltman underlined that the international community, alarmed by escalating tensions, is committed to the achievement of a peaceful solution to the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
During his visit, Feltman met with high ranking North Korean officials including Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho. North Korea acknowledged the UN’s “willingness to contribute to the efforts for preventing escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula in accordance with the UN Charter which defined the main mission of the UN as preserving international peace and security,” according to North Korea’s state news agency, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The KCNA also reported that both sides shared an interest in keeping the communication channel open: “The DPRK side and the UN Secretariat side acknowledged that Under-Secretary-General’s visit to the DPRK contributed to promoting trust between the two sides and agreed to have regular exchanges of opinions through frequent exchanges of visits at various levels.”
The Under-Secretary-General also visited UN project sites in North Korea including — the Pyongyang Children’s Foodstuff Factory, the Breast Tumor Institute of the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital, the Central Tuberculosis Preventive Institute, and the Pediatric Hospital in Phyongsong City. According to the KCNA’s report, Feltman saw firsthand just how much the sanctions were negatively impacting international humanitarian efforts.
Jeffrey Feltman was formerly the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 2009 to 2012 prior to taking his post in the United Nations.
Tillerson Says U.S. Open to Talks with No Precondition
On Tuesday December 12, State Secretary Rex Tillerson publicly expressed interest in starting direct talks with North Korea without preconditions. Speaking at the Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation forum in Washington, he said, “We’re ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. We’re ready to have the first meeting without precondition.”
This is a marked shift from the administration’s past insistence that it would not negotiate unless North Korea commits to denuclearization. “It’s not realistic to say we’re only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program… They have too much invested in it,” Tillerson said.
Just hours after Tillerson made his remarks, the White House appeared to contradict him by announcing, “The President’s views on North Korea have not changed.”
North Korea has repeatedly made clear that its nuclear weapons program is “the irreversible and inevitable strategic option to bolster the powerful war deterrence for the defense of the country.”
By ZoominKorea staff