The new North Korean Foreign Minister is a former defense commander with little diplomatic experience.
According to analysts, the decision to choose such a character at the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs proves that President Kim Jong Un attaches importance to loyalists in the Party and army between a period of sensitivity and deadlock in talks. speak to the United States.
|Photo: Pyeongyang Press Corp|
Reuters quoted a diplomatic source in Seoul as saying last week that North Korea informed countries that had embassies in Pyongyang that Ri Son Gwon – a senior military officer and an official. in the ruling Labor party – was appointed Secretary of State. Ri Son Gwon replaces Ri Yong Ho, a professional diplomat with years of experience negotiating with Washington.
Seoul-based news outlet NK News initially reported on the change, citing unnamed sources in Pyongyang.
Analysts say that it is too early to comment on the impact of new developments on the deadlocked US-Korea negotiations. But many points out that Ri Son Gwon often plays a confrontational role in negotiating with South Korea. Unlike his predecessor, he has no experience in dealing with nuclear issues or working with the US side, although he has led high-level negotiations with a number of neighbors.
Once the Chairman of the National Unification Commission (CPRC) in charge of relations with South Korea, Ri Son Gwon is the latest military official to be promoted to the leadership of the ruling DPRK party.
As President Kim Jong Un oversaw a number of short-range ballistic missile launches last year, the number of military and weapons industry officials accompanying him increased. Ri Son Gwon hasn’t appeared in public since talks with South Korea bogged down last year. But in April, he was elected to the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee and his latest appearance was at a December meeting of the Labor party’s central committee for policy making.
A tough negotiator, Ri Son Gwon “left the room” for a military dialogue with South Korea in 2014 when Seoul asked Pyongyang to apologize to North Korea’s “previous military provocations”. , according to a former South Korean official. Ri Son Gwon is also known as Kim Yong Chol’s right-hand man – a former military leader who held a high position in the party before leading nuclear talks with the United States.
According to Yonhap News, the North Korean Foreign Minister’s seat changed hands, suggesting that Pyongyang may reshape its policies towards Washington and Seoul. This change came after South Korea reiterated its commitment to improving inter-Korean relations between the U.S.-Korea standoff and a major difference in the U.S.-South Korean approach to the Kim Jong Un administration. .
After the unsuccessful US-Korea summit in Hanoi, Kim Yong Chol no longer appeared in public when Kim Jong Un praised the diplomats for their proficient relations with the US, including Choe Son Hui, Ri Yong Ho’s deputy. But Kim Yong Chol seems to have regained his influence behind the scenes, while Ri Yong Ho’s role gradually faded away as his working deal with the US collapsed in October and Washington ignored the deadline. resume talks at the end of 2019.
Ri Yong Ho’s absence in a collective photo of senior officials of the ruling party in December sparked speculation about his future.
“Ri Yong Ho is an official who was marginalized after a summit in Hanoi and had to leave his post because the people chosen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not seem to get anything done,” said Michael Madden, a North Korea experts at the Stimson Center (USA), said.
According to diplomatic sources, when Ri Son Gwon becomes Secretary of State, Vice Minister Choe is expected to gain an influential position, in part thanks to her family background and close personal relationship with the people. close women with President Kim Jong Un, including his wife and younger sister.
“The most important thing is what Kim Jong Un is thinking, and he needs someone who can be trusted to speak for him, whether it is Ri Son Gwon or Choe Son Hui” – Kim Hong-kyun, a former South Korean nuclear negotiator, comment.