UNITED NATIONS: North Korea's UN ambassador will attend a Security Council meeting on Friday (Dec 15) where US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will address how to confront the North Korea crisis, diplomats said.
Tillerson set off speculation that Washington was seeking a diplomatic opening for negotiations with North Korea when he offered this week to hold talks "without preconditions."
The White House and State Department however stressed that the US stance had not changed and insisted North Korea must first show a willingness to halt its nuclear and missile tests.
Ambassador Ja Song Nam will speak during his rare appearance at the top UN body, which will hold a ministerial-level meeting following a visit to Pyongyang by senior UN official Jeffrey Feltman.
Jo Jong Chol, spokesman at the North Korean mission, confirmed in an email to AFP that the ambassador will attend the council meeting.
On Thursday, the ambassador met with Feltman to follow up on the UN official's visit to Pyongyang last weekend.
Feltman met with North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho and Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong-Kuk during his four-day visit to Pyongyang – the first by a high-ranking UN official since 2011.
Ja also attended those meetings during which Feltman pressed for "talks about talks" to open up a diplomatic venue and prevent a possible war on the Korean peninsula.
UN officials declined to comment on the 30-minute meeting on Thursday, but Feltman has encouraged the North Koreans to take the Security Council seriously.
OPENING THE DOOR
North Korea has repeatedly criticized the council as a tool of the United States after it ratcheted up sanctions against Pyongyang over its missile and nuclear tests.
While UN rules allow North Korea to address the council during meetings that relate to its affairs, the ambassador has mostly boycotted the sessions.
During a closed-door briefing to the council on Tuesday, Feltman said he was "deeply worried" by the North Korean response and the "lack of urgency" to address the dangerous crisis, a council diplomat said.
The North Korean officials made clear to Feltman that "now is not the time" for talks, he said.
Feltman, the under-secretary-general for political affairs, told reporters on Tuesday that while the North Korean officials did not commit to hold talks, "they agreed that it was important to prevent war."
"Time will tell what was the impact of our discussions, but I think we've left the door ajar," said Feltman, adding that he "fervently" hoped that "the door to a negotiated solution will now be opened wide."
Over the past year, the council has adopted three rounds of sanctions aimed at choking off revenue to Pyongyang's military programmes after Kim Jong-Un's regime carried out a sixth nuclear test and a series of advanced missile launches.
China, Pyongyang's sole ally, and Russia argue that sanctions alone will not push North Korea to change course and want to step up diplomatic efforts to achieve a solution.
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