N. Korea names diplomat in nuke talks as foreign minister

Mr Ri Yong Ho's appointment could signal a push to try to get the six-party nuclear talks back on track.
Mr Ri Yong Ho's appointment could signal a push to try to get the six-party nuclear talks back on track.

SEOUL • North Korea has appointed as its new foreign minister a career diplomat who has been at the centre of managing relations with the United States and South Korea for more than 20 years.

Mr Ri Yong Ho's appointment was confirmed in a diplomatic note sent to the British government by the North Korean embassy in London on Monday, said an embassy official.

Mr Ri, 59, who was promoted from vice-minister, was Pyongyang's representative to the now- stalled six-party talks aimed at curbing the North's nuclear wea- pon programme.

North Korea formally withdrew in 2009 from the talks, which involved South Korea, the US, Russia, China and Japan.

Beijing wants the talks revived but Washington, Seoul and Tokyo all insist Pyongyang must first take tangible steps towards denuclearisation.

Given Mr Ri's experience with the talks, his appointment could signal a North Korean push to try to get the process back on track.

As the new foreign minister, he replaces Mr Ri Su Yong, formerly the North's long-time representative to the United Nations mission in Geneva and who is seen as an influential political mentor to supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

Mr Ri Su Yong was promoted to the ruling party politburo at a recently concluded party congress.

He was also appointed as the party's vice-chairman for international affairs.

Mr Ri Yong Ho began taking part in North Korean negotiations with Washington over its nuclear programme in 1995 and was a member of a delegation that visited the US in 2000.

He has served in a number of foreign missions, including a stint as ambassador to Britain.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'N. Korea names diplomat in nuke talks as foreign minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe