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North Korea tells UN envoy it wants to prevent war

[UNITED NATIONS, United States] A senior UN official returning from Pyongyang said on Tuesday that North Korean officials had told him it was important to prevent war but offered no concrete proposal for talks.

"They agreed that it was important to prevent war," Jeffrey Feltman, the UN's political affairs chief, told reporters after briefing the Security Council on his trip.

Mr Feltman met with North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong Kuk during his visit to Pyongyang over the weekend - the first by a high-ranking UN official since 2011.

No followup meeting was agreed during the talks, but Mr Feltman said he told the North Koreans that his visit should be seen as "only the beginning" of a new exchange.

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"They listened seriously to our arguments," said Mr Feltman, though acknowledging that "they did not offer any type of commitment to us at that point." "I think they have to reflect on what we said with their own leadership," he added.

The UN under secretary-general for political affairs said he urged Pyongyang to "signal that it was prepared to consider engagement" with world powers and that the United Nations could help.

"Time will tell what was the impact of our discussions, but I think we've left the door ajar," he said.

"I fervently hope that the door to a negotiated solution will now be opened wide."

A career diplomat who has served in the US State Department, notably on Middle East issues, Mr Feltman said his mission to Pyongyang was "certainly the most important" that he had ever undertaken.

The UN Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions over the past year against North Korea over its increasingly powerful missile and nuclear tests.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Washington that the United States was ready to talk to North Korea "without preconditions," backing away from US insistence that Pyongyang accept in principle to disarm.

AFP

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