North Korean foreign minister replaced in major reshuffle: report

Source:Reuters Published: 2020/1/19 22:18:40

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho (right)  Photo: VCG

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho has been replaced, Seoul-based NK News reported on Saturday.

The usually well-informed outlet, citing multiple unnamed sources in Pyongyang, said Ri would be replaced by Ri Son-gwon, the former chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful ­Reunification of the Country, who played a prominent role in inter-Korean talks in early 2018.

NK News - a US subscription-based website that provides news and analysis about North Korea - said the move, of which there has been no mention in official North Korean media, was part of a major political reshuffle that could have a significant impact on the country's diplomatic stance. The outlet said it would likely be confirmed on or before Thursday, when an event for resident diplomats is scheduled in Pyongyang.

Ri Yong-ho, born in 1956, did not attend the annual gathering of world leaders at the UN in September. He had attended the high-level meeting in New York for three years from 2016 to 2018.

NK News said his absence from a group photo of top leading party officials at a meeting in January raised speculation that he may have been replaced amid a broader political reshuffle that saw notable promotions and possible demotions of prominent figures in North Korea's military, Cabinet and more.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited a source in Beijing as saying that North Korea's top envoys to China and the UN returned to Pyongyang on ­Saturday. It said this was spurring speculation that North Korea could review its nuclear negotiating strategy with the US.

A fluent English speaker who studied at Pyongyang's prestigious University of Foreign Languages, Ri Yong-ho has for years held a number of high-level posts dealing with the West.

From 2003 to 2007, he was North ­Korea's ambassador in London and served as vice foreign minister, representing North Korea at now-defunct six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program.


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