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Recognition as nuclear power a premise for N. Korea to sit for dialogue

United Nations Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman arrived in North Korea on Dec. 5 for a meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and other officials, after Pyongyang reportedly requested a dialogue with the United Nations. Behind the North's move apparently lies its conclusion that there are limits to its efforts to appeal its position to the international community through China and Russia, both long-time close allies of the North, as the two neighbors are stepping up their sanctions against Pyongyang.

Yoon Hong-seok, a visiting professor at Myongji University in South Korea, who is versed in North Korean politics and foreign policy, said, "North Korea is seeking a dialogue with the United States after being recognized, even if not officially, as a nuclear power. The North may explain its position to the U.N. undersecretary general and ask him to act as a mediator between Pyongyang and Washington."

While North Korea recently pressed ahead with the launch of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, it has also shown a certain positive stance toward having a dialogue with the U.S. and other countries. According to Russian media reports, Kim Yong Nam, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, told a group of legislators from the Russian Duma during their visit to North Korea in late November that "With the successful launch of a Hwasong-15 missile, we have achieved our goal toward becoming a nuclear power." Kim also emphasized, "We are ready to sit at the dialogue table. But for that, we need to be recognized as a nuclear power first."

North Korea has heretofore reiterated its position in the United Nations. During the general debate of the U.N. General Assembly and at U.N. committee meetings, the North Korean ambassador to the U.N. has justified his country's nuclear and missile development programs, stating that they are aimed at self-defense against the nuclear threat posed by the United States. In October, North Korea resent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stating that U.N. Security Council resolutions for sanctions against Pyongyang are illegal, after the world body, as the North claims, "failed to reply" to its earlier letter.

In the letter, North Korea specifically condemns the "illegitimacy" of the U.N. Security Council resolutions in light of the U.N. Charter, claiming that the resolutions prohibit the autonomous right of each country to the peaceful use of cosmic space. The letter also calls for the convening of an international conference for legal experts to discuss the matter.

On Sept. 20, North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Han Tae Song reported during a meeting of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child that the anti-North sanctions are causing harm to children's education and livelihoods in North Korea, calling for the sanctions to be lifted.

Through talks with U.N. Undersecretary General Feltman, Pyongyang apparently aims to expound its position once again that the nuclear and missile development programs are aimed at self-defense, and is expected to highlight the "inhumane nature" of anti-North sanctions by taking Feltman to places where "humanitarian damage" from those sanctions is evident.

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