NEW YORK - North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations had problems renewing his visa, which was delayed for nearly two months beyond its expiry, according to a diplomatic source familiar with US-North Korea ties.
Ja Song Nam, who has served as ambassador to the United Nations since Feb. 28, 2014, applied to extend his visa in March, before it expired on May 22, the source said.
However, the renewal was only granted after North Korea raised the issue on July 13 at a closed meeting of a U.N. committee dealing with the host country.
As the host, the United States is charged with issuing visas and renewals to the government officials representing the 193 member states at the international body.
That paperwork is processed through the U.S. mission in New York, rather than through Washington, where the New York-based diplomats can process their renewal requests without leaving the country.
A North Korean official said that no explanation was offered about why the process took so long. "We believe it's a sort of hostile act," the official said.
When contacted by Kyodo, a U.S. mission representative declined to comment, saying visa records are considered to be confidential.
Others U.N. diplomats suggested that it was "rare" for such a request to have been delayed for so long. Although the ambassador was legally able to remain in the United States, it could have become problematic if he had tried traveling abroad.
Another diplomat believed that the time lag could be seen as a "message" to the country, especially in light of the heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with Pyongyang test-launching its first intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.
Over the last two years, the North has been subject to three U.N. Security Council resolutions in response to nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
Relations with the United States have also further been strained after Otto Warmbier, an American university student who was detained in North Korea for nearly a year and a half, died last month after returning home in a coma.
The United States has been pressing China to impose stricter measures to help rein in the North by cutting off their sources of funding to help choke off its nuclear program and is anxious to impose another sanctions resolution in response to the July 4 launch.
Work is still under way to try to reach agreement on the terms of a new resolution with Beijing before negotiations get going at the 15-member Security Council.