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Thursday, February 27, 2020

North Korea names senior army officer as new foreign minister

The move could be a sign that the country is ready to take a tougher stance on nuclear talks with the US. The newly-appointed minister has no real experience in negotiating with Washington or nuclear issues.

Published: January 24, 2020 4:24:57 pm
Ri Son Gwon has led numerous inter-Korean talks over the past 15 years as the chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, the organization which handles South Korean affairs.

North Korea on Friday named Ri Son Gwon, a former defense commander with limited diplomatic experience, as its new foreign minister.

Some experts say the move is a sign that North Korea is ready to toughen its stance on nuclear talks with the US.

The official state news agency KCNA reported that Ri gave a speech as minister at a New Year dinner reception hosted by the foreign affairs ministry on Thursday in Pyongyang.

Ri has led numerous inter-Korean talks over the past 15 years as the chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, the organization which handles South Korean affairs. However, he lacks experience negotiating with the United States and with nuclear issues.

The appointment surprised North Korea experts amid stalled denuclearization talks with Washington, as Ri’s predecessor had significantly more experience negotiating with the US.

Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang at South Korea’s Private Sejong Institute told the AP news agency: “From now on, it’s difficult to expect meaningful progress in North Korea-US diplomacy.”

Nuclear talks between the US and North Korea have stalled since the breakdown of the second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in February of 2019, with no further progress seen since then.

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