THE UN political chief is heading to North Korea on a rare four-day visit at the invitation of the government for a wide-ranging discussion on policy issues “of mutual interest and concern”.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman arrived in Pyongyang yesterday from Beijing, where he had met with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong.

Asked whether Feltman would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, Dujarric said that his current schedule included meetings with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Vice Minister Pak Myong Guk, diplomats and UN staff. Feltman is the highest-ranking American in the UN Secretariat, after serving for nearly 30 years in the US Foreign Service where his last post was as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

His visit comes at a time of heightened tensions between North Korea and South Korea, Japan and the United States, sparked by the reclusive country’s frequent missile launches and recent nuclear test, and particularly by its latest launch of a long-range ballistic missile last week. Kim and US president Donald Trump have traded insults and engaged in escalating rhetoric in recent months.