The U.N. political chief is heading to North Korea on a rare visit at the invitation of the government for a wide-ranging discussion on policy issues "of mutual concern."
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will arrive in Pyongyang Tuesday and stay until Friday.
"The visit is in response to a long-standing invitation from the authorities in Pyongyang for a policy dialogue with the U.N.," Dujarric told reporters.
He told reporters Monday that Feltman, who is currently in Beijing, will meet North Korea's foreign minister, a vice minister, diplomats and U.N. staff.
The United Nations said it believed Feltman would be the first senior U.N. official to travel to North Korea since his predecessor Lynn Pascoe visited in February 2010 and former U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos visited in October 2011.
The United States and South Korea went ahead with large-scale joint aerial drills on Monday, a move North Korea had said would push the Korean peninsula to "the brink of nuclear war." Russia and China wanted the drills called off.
The exercises were conducted a week after Pyongyang said it had tested its most advanced long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its missile and nuclear programs.
At a U.N. Security Council meeting last week to discuss the missile test, U.N. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned that while Washington does not seek war with Pyongyang, "if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed."
Dujarric said the invitation for Feltman to visit was issued by North Korea on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York in September, but confirmed only late last week.
When asked if Feltman was paving the way for a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Dujarric said: "We hope to have more afterwards."
He also noted that Guterres has repeatedly said "his good offices are always available if the parties want."