North Korea has appointed a career diplomat and experienced negotiator in talks with the US, Choe Son Hui, as foreign minister. The former deputy foreign minister was promoted at a plenary session of the ruling Labor Party’s Central Committee, state-controlled media reported on Saturday. In the future, she will be the first woman in the largely isolated state to head the ministry. She replaces former army officer Ri Son Gwon as the new head of department.
Even as deputy minister, Choe, who was born in 1964, was one of the few women to hold a high position in North Korea’s power elite. Among other things, she played an important role in the two summit meetings between ruler Kim Jong Un and former US President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019. She also accompanied Kim in April 2019 on his first state visit to Russia.
Political tensions between USA and North Korea
It was initially unclear what consequences Choe’s promotion could have for the negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Her appointment comes at a time when tensions are rising after a series of nuclear-capable missile tests by North Korea earlier this year. The USA and South Korea also fear that North Korea could carry out a new nuclear test at any time.
Washington’s negotiations with Pyongyang have made no progress since Kim’s failed second summit with Trump in February 2019 in Vietnam. North Korea then made it clear several times that it was not interested in new talks as long as Washington made no new proposals. Likewise, Choe had said there was no need to sit down.
At the recent Central Committee meeting, Kim reportedly spoke of a “very serious” security environment for the country and the need to strengthen defense capabilities. He did not go directly into the United States.
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