(CNN)A UN official who just returned from several days speaking with North Korean officials in Pyongyang has told CNN that he is “really worried about an accidental move toward conflict.”
Jeffrey Feltman, an American who is the United Nations undersecretary-general for political affairs, told Christiane Amanpour on Thursday that he is concerned about a “lack of communication” and the “high risk of some kind of miscalculation.”
Feltman is the highest-level UN official to visit Pyongyang since 2011. He spent more than 15 hours speaking with North Korean officials, he said, including the foreign minister. Feltman has previously served as an American assistant secretary of state.
“The lack of trust in their mind meant that they had to rely on deterrence — meaning military deterrence — rather than on diplomatic dialogue in the short term.”
In the long-term, he said they understood the need for diplomacy.
“I think that at least in terms of long-term aspirations, they understand that there has to be peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, that there has to be some kind of arrangement that’s based on a diplomatic solution.”
North Korean officials, he said, are “quite focused on the statements from Washington.”
Feltman said he reminded North Korean officials that their nuclear and missile programs are a concern not just for the United States, but for the whole global community, as reflected through UN Security Council resolutions.
He did tell Amanpour, however, that North Korean officials were fully engaged in his talks.
“I have been in many diplomatic meetings where one side of the table or maybe both sides of the table simply read talking points and give long monologues to each other that repeat well-known positions or polemics and vitriol. That’s not what happened. They listened extremely carefully to the points that we were making over the 4½ days that we were in Pyongyang.”
“I don’t know if they’ll accept anything that we said. But they gave us a fair hearing about why the international community was so alarmed.”