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UN political affairs chief visits N. Korea

UNITED NATIONS The political affairs chief of the United Nations will visit North Korea this week, making it the highest-level visit by a UN official in more than six years as tensions grip the region over Pyongyang's nuclear and weapons programmes.

Mr Jeffrey Feltman, a former senior official of the US State Department, is scheduled to visit from yesterday until Friday and meet with officials to discuss "issues of mutual interest and concern," the UN said.

He will meet with North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Vice-Minister Pak Myong Guk, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, adding that the visit was in response to "a long-standing invitation from the authorities in Pyongyang for a policy dialogue with the UN".

CHINA

"He will also meet with the UN Country Team and members of the diplomatic corps, as well as visit UN project sites," Mr Dujarric said, adding that Mr Feltman was also visiting China.

Mr Feltman will be the first senior UN official to travel to North Korea since his predecessor, Mr Lynn Pascoe, visited in February 2010 and former UN aid chief Valerie Amos visited in October 2011, the UN said.

The visit comes at a time of high tension over North Korea's programme to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the US, including the test of Pyongyang's largest intercontinental ballistic missile last week.

A US State Department official said it is "aware" of the planned trip, when asked if Washington backed the initiative. - REUTERS

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