United Nations faces uphill course to broker North Korea talks

UN North Korea

The visit has drawn attention amid escalating tensions over North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, especially after its latest long-range missile launch last week.

On Monday, the US and South Korea launched their biggest-ever joint air exercise - maneuvers slammed by Pyongyang as an "all-out provocation".

The five-day Vigilant Ace drill involves 230 aircraft, including F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters, and tens of thousands of troops, Seoul's air force said.

Feltman is set to discuss a wide range of "issues of mutual interest and concern" with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and other high-ranking officials, a United Nations spokesman said Monday.

Trump announced on November 20 that the United States was returning North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism and promised to intensify a campaign of "maximum pressure" and sanctions as part of a rolling effort to compel Kim's government to negotiate over its nuclear program.

Dujarric added that Feltman's visit comes in response to an invitation that has been pending for some time, and which aims to maintain a dialogue between Pyongyang and the UN.

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"If the diplomatic effort is successful, then they will certainly be able to exercise some persuasion".

Feltman is the first person in his position to visit Pyongyang since 2010.

United Nations envoy to break logjam?

US President Donald Trump has engaged in months of tit-for-tat rhetoric with Kim, pejoratively dubbing him "Little Rocket Man" and a "sick puppy".

On Monday, he met Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong, and from Beijing he will go directly to the North Korean capital.

Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho said the meeting will focus on finding peaceful ways to pressure North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests and denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

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