The United Nations was ready to exert efforts to ease tensions in the Korean peninsula, announced North Korean state media on Saturday shortly after the highest-level UN official concluded a five-day visit to the isolated country.
North Korea also said in a statement carried by its official KCNA news agency that UN envoy, Jeffery Feltman, acknowledged the negative impact of sanctions on humanitarian aid to North Korea.
Tensions had been high for months in the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang pursues a nuclear and missile program, putting it at loggerheads with US President Donald Trump and in defiance of UN sanctions.
Feltman’s trip -- the first by a UN diplomat of his rank since 2010 -- saw him meet Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho and vice foreign minister Pak Myong-Kuk, and visit medical facilities supported by the UN, KCNA said.
He had arrived in the Chinese capital Beijing on Saturday following his North Korea trip and did not speak to reporters upon his arrival.
“The United Nations expressed concerns over the heightened situation on the Korean peninsula and expressed willingness to work on easing tensions on the Korean peninsula in accordance with the UN Charter which is based on international peace and security,” KCNA said.
Speaking at an academic forum, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the situation on the Korean peninsula had entered a vicious circle of shows of strength and confrontation, and the outlook was not optimistic, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“But at the same time it can be seen that hopes for peace have yet to extinguished. The prospects for negotiations still exist, and the option of resorting to force cannot be accepted,” Wang was quoted as saying.
On November 29, North Korea test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile which it said was its most advanced yet, capable of reaching the mainland United States.
The United States and South Korea conducted large-scale military drills this week.
Pyongyang reiterated its view that these maneuvers were a provocation on Saturday, accusing the drills of "revealing its intention to mount a surprise nuclear preemptive strike against the DPRK", using the initials of the country's official name.
China, Pyongyang's sole major diplomatic and military ally, has called on the United States to freeze military exercises and on North Korea to halt weapons tests.
North Korea blamed US "nuclear blackmail" for soaring tensions over its weapons program following the meeting with Feltman, but agreed to regular communication with the organization, state media said Saturday.
Last month’s missile test prompted a US warning that North Korea’s leadership would be “utterly destroyed” if war were to break out. The Pentagon has mounted repeated shows of force after North Korean tests.
North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea and the United States and says its weapons programs are necessary to counter US aggression. The United States stations 28,500 troops in the South, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.