• Kyodo

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A North Korean envoy to the United Nations said Monday there is no plan to hold bilateral foreign ministerial meetings with Japan, South Korea or the United States on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week.

“Nothing has been scheduled,” Ri Tong Il, deputy ambassador to the world body, said, commenting on speculation that North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong might meet bilaterally with his counterparts during his stay in New York.

The envoy suggested that Ri Su Yong, who reportedly arrived in New York as the first North Korean foreign minister to visit the United States in 15 years, could attend U.N.-related events such as a summit on climate change planned for Tuesday.

“There are important meetings such as a summit on climate change,” the envoy said near the U.N. after being asked why the foreign minister came to New York several days before he is to deliver a speech at the General Assembly on Saturday.

Radio Pyongyang said Ri arrived in New York on Sunday.

On the sidelines of the U.N. event, Ri is scheduled to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday, according to South Korean media.

Citing an unidentified U.N. official, the report in the Kyunghyang Shinmun reporter said North Korea requested the meeting with Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, and that Ban accepted.

Attention is on whether Ri will hold bilateral meetings later this week in New York with his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se, and other officials, including Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye recently said the door is open for inter-Korean talks while officials of both countries are in New York.

Kishida told reporters in New York on Monday that he was not considering arranging a bilateral meeting with Ri.

North Korea has promised to reinvestigate the whereabouts of Japanese nationals it abducted in the 1970s and 1980s but recently told Tokyo of a delay in its submission of the first report.

The last time a North Korean foreign minister visited the United States was in 1999 when the late Paek Nam Sun gave an address to the General Assembly.

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