SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea has removed Kim Yong Chol, leader Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart, from a top post, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday (April 24), citing a South Korean Parliament official.
Kim Yong Chol has been the head of the United Front Department, the North Korean Workers’ Party apparatus that handles ties with South Korea and increasingly with the United States.
Yonhap did not give a reason for his removal.
Kim Yong Chol has been Kim Jong Un’s top envoy. He was prominent at a second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Vietnam in February, which broke down over disagreement on ending the North’s nuclear programme. He visited the White House in January to meet Trump.
The report of the envoy’s removal comes after the North’s foreign ministry said last week it no longer wanted to deal with Pompeo and he should be replaced in talks by someone more mature.
Kim Jong Un has warned that the failure of the talks in Vietnam risked reviving tension and said he was interested in meeting Trump again only if the United States shows more flexibility. He gave a year-end deadline for a change in attitude.