A top UN official just wrapped up his four-day tour of North Korea in what has been described as a rare event as Pyongyang engaged in direct talks with such a high-ranking official. But the visit has not provided any breakthrough so far, with no indications emerging that this could be a geopolitical game changer in the rapidly changing atmosphere in the Korean Peninsula.
Jeffrey Feltman, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, was in North Korea from Tuesday, 5 December, to Friday, 8 December – within a few days of the hermit kingdom launching a long-range missile defying UN regulations. Not so surprisingly, he did not get the chance to meet the country's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
However, Feltman did manage to hold talks with the North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho during the trip, the first by a top UN official in nearly six years. This is particularly significant because the visit comes at a tense time in the Korean Peninsula, with loud rhetoric and military assertions increasing simultaneously.
"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," the UN said in a statement.
Though North Korea's secretive regime did not commit or even give a hint of scaling down any of its weapons programmes, the country has now agreed to improve its communication with the global body. The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Feltman's visit will help improve the UN and North Korea to communicate effectively through routine channels.
Pyongyang has also complained to the senior UN authority that the prevailing tense situation is due to the US' moves in the region and its intention to launch a nuclear attack on North Korea.
The UN's statement insisted a solution needs to be achieved only through a dialogue process and that there is little time left to ease the situation. "He [Feltman] also said there can only be a diplomatic solution to the situation, achieved through a process of sincere dialogue. Time is of the essence," it said.