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Choe Son-hui, N.K. diplomat on U.S. affairs, promoted to vice minister

2018/03/08 18:29

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SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has promoted Choe Son-hui, a senior female diplomat in charge of U.S. relations, to the post of vice foreign minister.

The North Korean foreign ministry and state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) have described Choe as vice foreign minister while reporting her meeting with visiting Russian delegates. Choe was director-general of the ministry's North American department.

"During the visit the delegation paid a courtesy call on Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui and met with officials concerned of the Foreign Ministry," the KCNA said Thrusday.

The foreign ministry's website on Tuesday said Vice Foreign Minister Choe and the Russians discussed the security of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia as well as ways to enhance Pyongyang-Moscow ties.

Choe represented the North in various semi-governmental meetings with former U.S. officials and experts. She met with Joseph Yun, the U.S. top negotiator on North Korean nuclear issues, in a behind-the-door meeting in Norway in May last year.

The North Korean foreign ministry reportedly has seven vice ministers under a single first vice minister and a foreign minister.

Choe is believed to have replaced Han Song-ryol, vice foreign minister in charge of U.S. affairs. It is possible that Han has likewise replaced Kim Kye-gwan, the first vice foreign minister, who is rumored to be ill.

The recent reshuffle came as North Korea is gearing up for possible talks with the U.S. In a recent meeting with South Korean presidential envoys in Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his willingness to discuss its nuclear program with the U.S.

Choe is likely to play a key role when talks actually take place between Pyongyang and Washington.