Senior UN official to visit North Korea this week

The UN Security Council has hit the isolated and impoverished North with a package of sanctions over its increasingly powerful missile and nuclear tests which have rattled Washington and its regional allies South Korea and Japan

A high-ranking United Nations official is on his way to North Korea to help lower tensions over the secretive regime's nuclear and ballistic missile testing programs.

Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N.'s undersecretary general for political affairs, arrived in Pyongyang earlier in the day on a four-day visit that includes talks with Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho.

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said last week that while Washington does not seek war with Pyongyang, "if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed".

"We're certainly aware of his travels under the auspices of his role with the United Nations to North Korea", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

North Korea conducted its third intercontinental ballistic missile test last Tuesday, demonstrating a theoretical ability to strike targets across all of the continental U.S. In response, the South carried out precision strike missile drills involving all three main branches of the South Korean military. Feltman's predecessor, Lynn Pascoe, visited the North in 2010.

Pyongyang ramped up already high tensions on the Korean Peninsula five days ago when it announced it had successfully test-fired a new ICBM, which it says brings the whole of the continental United States within range.

Dujarric said Pyongyang issued an invitation for Feltman to visit back in September, during the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly.

US President Donald Trump has engaged in months of tit-for-tat rhetoric with Kim, pejoratively dubbing him "Little Rocket Man" and a "sick puppy".

The UN envoy is also planning to see foreign diplomats and UN workers in the North on humanitarian missions, Dujarric said.