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Greenville native sent to North Korea on UN mission

Published: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 4:32 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 4:32 PM
By: Jessica Wehrman, Jack Torry - Washington Bureau

A Greenville native who is a senior official at the United Nations is scheduled to meet with North Korean officials Tuesday in an effort to broker a diplomatic solution to Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons and the long-range missiles to deliver them.

Jeffrey Feltman, undersecretary-general for political affairs at the United Nations, will be the highest ranking United Nations official to visit North Korea in six years. His visit to Asia included a stop in Beijing Monday where he met with senior Chinese officials.

Stéphane Dujarric, a United Nations spokesman, told reporters Monday that Feltman would “discuss with” senior North Korean officials “issues of mutual interest and concern.”

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Feltman, a 1977 graduate of Greenville High School and a graduate of Ball State University who spent three decades in the U.S. foreign service, told the United Nations Security Council last month has been an advocate of a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Last month after North Korea test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile which could reach the United States, Feltman told the UN Security Council that “given the grave risks associated with any military confrontation,” the Security Council “needs to do all it can to prevent an escalation.”

“Unity in the Security Council is critical,” Feltman said. “Security Council unity also creates an opportunity for sustained diplomatic engagement – an opportunity that must be seized in these dangerous times to seek off-ramps and work to create conditions for negotiations.”

Feltman said North Korea’s “repeated nuclear and missile tests over the past two years have created great tension on the Korean Peninsula and beyond. This dynamic must be reversed. The solution can only be political.”

Before beginning his career at the United Nations, Feltman served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from August 2009 to June 2012. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon from 2004 to 2006, and was there when Israel bombed the nation’s airport and other targets in 2006, part of a campaign to force the release of two soldiers abducted by Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite Muslim organization.

During his career in the foreign service, he spent time in Haiti, Israel, Hungary, Tunisia and Iraq, where he served at the Coalition Provisional Authority office in Irbil for four months in early 2004.

In a 2005 interview with the Dayton Daily News, Feltman traced his interest in diplomacy to a trip to London while he was an undergrad at Ball State. But his mother, Roberta, traced his wanderlust to a high school visit to Rome with the Latin Club.

“His father and I joke that we haven’t been able to keep him home since he went to church camp in the fourth grade,” she said then.