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North Korea's ambassador meets with UN official after visit

© AFP/File | Senior UN official Jeffrey Feltman is shown shaking hands with North Korean senior ruling party leader Ri Su-Yong in Pyongyang on December 7, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) - 

North Korea's UN ambassador on Thursday met with a senior UN official who made a recent trip to Pyongyang to push for talks on ending the crisis over the reclusive country's nuclear and missile tests.

Ambassador Ja Song Nam held talks with Jeffrey Feltman, the UN's political affairs chief, to follow up on his trip to Pyongyang last weekend, a UN official said.

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.

The meeting at UN headquarters came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was ready to talk to North Korea "without preconditions," in what was seen as a shift in the US position.

The White House and State Department however stressed that the US stance had not changed and insisted that North Korea must first show a willingness to halt its nuclear and missile tests.

Feltman 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."

During a closed-door briefing to the Security Council on Tuesday, the under secretary-general for political affairs said he was "deeply worried" by the North Korean response and the "lack of urgency" in Pyongyang to address the dangerous crisis, a council diplomat said.

The North Korean officials made clear that "now is not the time" for talks, he said.

Tillerson will on Friday address a ministerial-level Security Council meeting on North Korea that diplomats will be closely following for any sign of an opening toward Pyongyang.

Over the past year, the council has adopted three rounds of sanctions aimed at choking off revenue to Pyongyang's military programs 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.

© 2017 AFP