UN veteran is South Korea's first female foreign minister

President Moon Jae In (right) and newly appointed Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, after she received her appointment credentials at the presidential residence in Seoul yesterday.
President Moon Jae In (right) and newly appointed Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, after she received her appointment credentials at the presidential residence in Seoul yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SEOUL • A United Nations veteran has been appointed as South Korea's first female foreign minister, tasked with easing tensions over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Ms Kang Kyung Wha, 62, who was appointed yesterday, served as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs before becoming a senior policy adviser to UN chief Antonio Guterres this year.

One of Ms Kang's first tasks will be to prepare for a bilateral summit between President Moon Jae In and United States President Donald Trump later this month, as fears grow over Pyongyang's weapons programme.

The isolated regime has staged a series of missile launches this year, defying global pressure and triggering tightened UN sanctions.

Ms Kang served at the South's foreign ministry for years before joining the UN.

Her diplomatic experience will help the South navigate tricky waters and tackle sensitive issues with allies and neighbours, Mr Moon's office said earlier.

Mr Moon, a centre-left politician who took office on May 9 after the ousting of impeached president Park Geun Hye, has advocated dialogue with the North to bring it to the negotiating table - in a break from his conservative predecessors who took a hardline stance.

Ties with the US have also come under some strain recently over the controversial deployment of a US anti-missile system in the South. The deployment has soured relations with China, which sees the system as a threat.

The South under Park agreed last year to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system to guard against threats from the North, prompting Beijing to deploy informal economic sanctions against South Korean businesses in April.

Though parts of the system are already in place, Mr Moon this month suspended further deployment.

Officially, the delay is to allow time for a new comprehensive environmental impact assessment, but analysts say the move is a strategic delay by Mr Moon to handle the tricky diplomatic situation he inherited.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline 'UN veteran is South Korea's first female foreign minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe