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New North Korea ambassador to 'work with U.N.' after inter-Korea summit

By
Elizabeth Shim
Ambassador Kim Song (R) presents his credentials to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday at U.N. headquarters in New York. Photo by Elizabeth Shim/UPI
Ambassador Kim Song (R) presents his credentials to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday at U.N. headquarters in New York. Photo by Elizabeth Shim/UPI

NEW YORK, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The new North Korea ambassador to the United Nations presented his credentials to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, ahead of a possible higher-level U.S.-North Korea meeting at the United Nations next week.

Ambassador Kim Song, who said he intends to "work with the U.N." on international affairs, added he conveys "warm greetings" from "supreme leader" Kim Jong Un.

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"I bring warm greetings from our supreme leader Comrade Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, chairman of the state commission of the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]," Kim said before reporters at U.N. headquarters.

Wearing a lapel pin bearing the portrait of one of the North Korean leaders, the top Pyongyang diplomat to the United Nations also said he "conveys greetings from Comrade Kim Yong Nam," presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly.

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Guterres, who said he has been watching the third inter-Korea summit, in a separate statement praised the "determination and diplomacy" of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un.

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"The commitments reflected in the joint statement include important military confidence-building measures and a commitment by [North Korea] to dismantle missile engine testing infrastructure in the presence of experts from related countries," Guterres said in the statement, adding "now it is time for concrete action."

There is little information on Kim Song. The North Korea diplomat did not take questions from the media on Thursday.

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According to the U.N. Protocol and Liaison Service, Kim Song served as the director-general of the Department of Treaty and Law in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2016 to 2018. He was previously posted to the United Nations as counselor between 2011 and 2015, and was also assigned to the North Korea mission in Vienna, home to the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Kim Song was born in Pyongyang in 1959, attended the University of International Relations in the capital, is married and has two children, according to the United Nations.

Guterres told Kim Song on Thursday his appointment comes at a "very exciting time," a view that could be shared in Washington.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in New York for a meeting with top North Korean officials in the spring, has said he welcomes the outcome of the most recent inter-Korea summit, including a decision to dismantle facilities at Yongbyon, the North Korea nuclear site.

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Pompeo has invited North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho to meet in New York, where they are "both already scheduled to be in attendance at the U.N. General Assembly meeting."

The Trump administration continues to seek complete North Korea denuclearization, but concern has been rising among North Korea watchers Pyongyang could ask for concessions from Seoul or Washington before arriving at the final point.

But seeing denuclearization as a process, and not as an end goal, could be helpful going forward, says Tom Collina, policy director at the Ploughshares Fund in Washington, D.C.

"The Trump administration wants North Korea to go first. The North Koreans seem to want the two sides to go together in a synchronized way," Collina told UPI on Thursday, referring to North Korea's call for an end-of-war declaration from the United States. "Let's get out of this question of who goes first, and hold hands and jump at the same time. The Trump administration hopefully will come to that position because otherwise they're not going to get anywhere."

Collina, who credits Moon with "fixing" the North Korea impasse in Washington, said U.S.-North Korea engagement appears to be "back on track."

"We're actually optimistic things will move forward, and again it's because Moon stepped in and massaged the situation -- got everyone talking again," Collina said.

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Key results include the North's offer to dismantle Yongbyon, which is not the same thing as denuclearization, but a "very important step on the way to denuclearization," Collina said.

"If they close Yongbyon that would mean they shut off a significant source for their bomb material, and limit the number of bombs they could make," the analyst said. "It's not the Holy Grail, it's not the whole enchilada but it's a major step along the way. Let's get that done and move on to the next step."

U.S. President Donald Trump and Moon are expected to meet next week at the United Nations.

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