North Korea appears to have picked its point man for relations with Seoul as its new Foreign Minister, possibly heralding a shift in its policy toward the US and South Korea, informed sources said here on Sunday.
According to the sources, North Korea has notified foreign ambassadors based in Pyongyang of its recent appointment of Ri Son-gwon as the country’s new top envoy, reports Yonhap News Agency.
The sources said the notification was made late last week, and his official appointment may be announced this week.
Ri Son-gwon, if confirmed, will replace Ri Yong-ho, probably signalling that Pyongyang might reshape its policy toward Washington and Seoul, although any drastic changes are unlikely at the moment.
Ri Son-gwon, a former army officer, has been serving as chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, which is equivalent to the South’s Unification Ministry.
He has been North Korea’s key official for relations with South Korea and was also the head of the North Korean delegation to recent high-level talks with Seoul, including the meeting in August 2018 that led to President Moon Jae-in’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang in September the same year.
Besides his career dealing with the South, however, little has been known about his professional experience in the field of foreign affairs.
The dismissal of Ri Yong-ho, a career diplomat well versed in diplomacy towards the US, as the country’s Foreign Minister came amid the communist country’s repeated stance that it would not sit down with the US for denuclearization negotiations, said Yonhap News Agency.
Denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang have been stalled since the second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi collapsed without a deal last February.
North Korea has said it would not return to dialogue until the US fully accepts its demands and withdraws what it calls a “hostile policy” against Pyongyang.