North Korean Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol (C, could have been reshuffled in Pyongyang, according to a South Korean press report. Photo courtesy of Secretary Mike Pompeo/U.S. Department of State
SEOUL, April 4 (UPI) -- North Korea's Kim Jong Un may have reshuffled the negotiators who deal with the South, including Kim Yong Chol, a former military intelligence official possibly responsible for the attack on a warship that killed nearly 50 South Koreans.
Kim Yong Chol, who met with U.S. President Donald Trump twice at the White House to deliver letters from the leadership, may no longer be the negotiator for discussions with Seoul or Washington, South Korean television network JTBC reported Thursday.
Kim and other members of Pyongyang's South Korea negotiating team are "out," according to the report.
Kim Yong Chol has been one of Kim Jong Un's closest aides, meeting frequently with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He may be under scrutiny following the breakdown of talks in Hanoi, Vietnam.
A South Korean diplomatic source told JTBC that Kim Yong Chol, who has been in charge of negotiations with Seoul and Washington for 30 years, is being rotated out with other officials, including Kim Song Hye, director of the United Front Department's tactical office.
If Kim Yong Chol is no longer in the negotiating role, he could be replaced by Choe Son Hui, a senior diplomat on North American affairs.
Politicians in Seoul remembered the sinking of the Cheonan warship last month, but most are affiliated with the conservative opposition. President Moon Jae-in did not take part in an official memorial at a national cemetery, and Defense Minister Chung Kyung-doo has been criticized for not being more forthcoming about North Korea's responsibility for the attack.
South Korea's military is "downplaying" the incident, Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the center-right Bareun Mirae Party said Wednesday, according to local news service NewDaily.